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1066 - The Battle for Middle Earth (2009)

Posted By : khan_Sagi | Date : 01 Nov 2010 01:33:00 | Comments : 0 |
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1066 - The Battle for Middle Earth (2009)
English | AVI | XviD MPEG-4 624 x 1179 Kbps 352 25 fps | MP3 130 Kbps 48 KHz Stereo | 02:29:52 | 1.46 GB
Genre: Documentary

Director Justin Hardy talks about his two-part drama-documentary re-enacting the three great battles of 1066.
Justin Hardy doesn’t have much truck with what he calls “the David Starkey notion” that the most interesting people in English history are our monarchs. “In my view,” he says, “the story of our island’s past is to do with much more common heroes and heroines, accompanied by a few kings and queens who sat on the throne and who were probably very unaware of what was going on around them.”

This is just the sort of thing to shift royalist historians into angry letter-writing mode, but it doesn’t seem that Hardy – whose sword-wielding historical drama 1066: the Battle for Middle Earth airs on Monday and Tuesday on Channel 4 – is losing much sleep over that prospect. Instead the director talks of the need, when dramatising history for television, to foreground a small group of characters in order to give a human focus to large historical events. He calls it “electing a microcosm”, and, in the case of 1066, the microcosm he elected was a band of peasant soldiers from the Sussex village of Crowhurst.

Hardy and his researchers found this village – situated between the coast and Hastings – in the Domesday Book, which notes that the place was “laid to waste” in 1066. It was just the thing they were looking for: small, involved in the events of the year, and with a population about whom, thanks to a range of 11th-century source material, they could make some educated guesses. Lifting Anglo-Saxon names and sociological details from these sources, they began to characterise the story, centring upon a 14-year-old newlywed called Tofi (played by Mike Bailey), a cowardly farmer called Leofric (Tim Plester) and a fierce warrior called Ordgar (Francis Magee): “a fellowship of ordinary men”, as the promotional blurb has it, “in extraordinary times”.

The overtones of Lord of the Rings here, and in the film’s subtitle, are hard to miss, and it may sound as if Hardy’s jumping on the Tolkien bandwagon – Hobbiting up his own production to attract a wider audience. But he justifies the Tolkien-ish overtones in academic terms: Tolkien was, after all, Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and drew much of the language of Lord of the Rings directly from the period. The word “orc”, Hardy explains, is regularly used to describe Normans in Anglo-Saxon works, and “Middle Earth” is a common Anglo-Saxon description of the world. “I hope,” he says, “that we kept throughout the piece the idioms of the time.”

Hardy is also ready to defend his film against the accusation – commonly levelled at historical dramas – of being a patronising journey into the past, high on artifice and low on educational value. “I believe the alternative way to tell this story, without dramatisation,” he says, “is to use the Bayeux Tapestry, and to use a talking-head historian, walking around what: a field? We have no architectural remnants of the period.” A sensitively dramatised production, he argues, brings people closer to the action, giving them an attractive sense of what he terms “heroism and boldness”.

The heroism in 1066 won’t be for everyone, though: there are more severed limbs, arrow-wounds and sword attacks than in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The battle re-enactment group Regia Anglorum is owed a debt of gratitude for these scenes, Hardy says; they bulked out his small cast with a few hundred extras in period costume. And, in credit to them, the result – especially the large-scale finale at the Battle of Hastings, with its bows and arrows, shield walls and cavalry charges – is gripping. One has to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of accuracy; but at any rate it looks right.

The same can be said of some of Hardy’s past productions, notably Trafalgar Battle Surgeon and The Relief of Belsen, for which he won Royal Television Society and Broadcast awards respectively. Both of those films worked by immersing the viewer in a visually arresting world while piling on the dramatic tension. Neither featured any distractingly famous actors or focused on the grand historical figures – Nelson, Hitler – of their time. 1066 does feature the recognisable tones of Ian Holm, who provides a whispered and arguably irritating voice-over; but otherwise it’s a production flavoured by what Hardy calls “the common man” – an original twist, given that most of us remember that year mainly for its kings.

1066: The Battle For Middle Earth (Episode 1 of 2)
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Crowhurst newlywed Tofi and his farmer friend Leofric are torn from their Sussex homes by the English warrior Ordgar and summoned to defend the English coast from invasion. But while the army of King Harold waits in the south, fierce Vikings set sail from the fjords of the north.

The Vikings land in Cleveland - and annihilate the men of Yorkshire at the Battle of Fulford. Hearing of this surprise invasion, our English fighters are ordered to march 280 miles north to repel the invaders. After an epic trek they meet the Vikings at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. But the Vikings have divided their force - and the English triumph.

It's the end of the Viking age, and Ordgar, Tofi and Leofric have survived. But news soon reaches them that the Normans have landed in Sussex. Their own homes are under attack, so they must run all the way south again to save all that they love.

1066: The Battle For Middle Earth (Episode 2 of 2)
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Tofi, Leofric and Ordgar are reinforced by the Viking warrior Snorri as they race south to save Crowhurst and defend England from the Norman invasion.

We meet the Normans - an alien army of men loyal to the ruthless Duke William. Among them, the ruthless Ozouf struggles to command the loyalty of the aristocratic and gentler Coutances, despite the intimidating presence of the tongueless Drogo.

Just outside London, the English fellowship divides. Ordgar and Snorri stay with the dwindling army of King Harold, while Tofi and Leofric set off to rescue the women of Crowhurst. To their horror, they discover that Crowhurst has been destroyed. Stumbling across the captive women and children in the southern forest, they fight off Ozouf and Coutances, rescue Judith and the child Aelf, and take them to safety.




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