Christopher Columbus (1985)
Director: Alberto Lattuada.
Starring: Gabriel Byrne (Cristoforo Colombo), Rossano Brazzi (Diego Ortiz De Vilhegas), Virna Lisi (Dona Moniz Perestrello), Oliver Reed (Martin Pinzon), Raf Vallone (Jose Vizinho), Max von Sydow (King John of Portugal), Eli Wallach (Father Hernando De Talavera), Nicol Williamson (King Ferdinand), Faye Dunaway (Queen Isabella of Spain).
mini-series starring Gabriel Byrne, Faye Dunaway, Oliver Reed
Off the Coast of Portugal, August 13, 1476. A ship is burning. Columbus helps a woman escape the fire. He throws her overboard and then he jumps in the ocean. Columbus as narrator says that he had signed on a merchant ship to sail from Genoa to Flanders. Near Lagos they were fired upon by French warships.
Columbus lands on the coast where the Gypsies are robbing the corpses of their valuables. A Gypsy woman tries to take things from Columbus, but he grabs her knife and tells all the Gypsies to stand back from him. The Gypsy leader tells Columbus that they mean no harm to him. So Columbus drops the knife. He eats some Gypsy food for dinner. He tells the leader that he went to sea when he was only nine years old. He was born in Genoa [in 1450 or 1451].
A Gypsy woman comes over to Columbus. She wants to read his palm. She says that he will become famous.
The next day Columbus gives money to the local priest for a proper Christian burial for those who died from the ship.
Columbus heads to Lisbon to see his brother Bartholomew. He says that Portuguese mariners had been expanding the known world with their voyages of discovery: the Azores, Scandinavia and the planting of settlements along the coast of Africa.
His brother works making charts and maps. He's glad to see his brother. They talk of Genoa. The Turks allows nothing through to the west from the east. Genoa is hurt by this blockade.
Columbus gets a place on a old wreck plying the Iceland trade. The captain, fearing a mutiny, locks himself in his cabin and makes Columbus the acting captain. They pick up a small boat and find a corpse in it. Columbus says the man looks like he must have come from the west to here, since he looked different from anyone from Europe or Africa.
On the voyage, Columbus becomes friends with the Scandinavian Noscomb. In Iceland, Noscomb takes Christopher to a saga telling place. The story teller talks about Erik sailing west who reached a land where no Viking had ever been before. He called it Vinland. This gets Christopher thinking more and more about sailing west.
When he gets back to Lisbon, his brother has become the head of the map and chart business. He wants Christopher to become his partner. Christopher agrees, but says Bartholomew must give him time enough to study the ocean and the stars for he is sure he can reach land by going west.
Walking home at night the brothers pass by the Convento dos Santos. Bartholomew says inside the convent are some of the purest and richest young women in Portugal. In church Columbus keeps looking at a young woman from the convent. She notices this and keeps looking at Columbus.
Columbus gets a message from the King's advisor Vizinho to come to the palace. Bartholomew warns his brother not to be too reliant on Vizinho. He is not popular at court. He adds that Vizinho is a Jew.
Columbus meets with Vizinho, who tells him that the King admires the work of the brothers on the charts and maps and he wants some more maps made for him. Vizinho gives him the specifications for the new maps. Columbus uses the opportunity to tell Vizinho that soon he will have a project to present to the advisor. Vizinho says he looks forward to seeing the project.
The King of Portugal points to a map and says: "Fort Sao Jorge da Mina." He says here they are building more than just a fortress. This port must insure Portuguese dominance over all of Africa forever. In order to insure the Portuguese settlements along the African coast, the nation will use slaves. Vizinho is opposed to this, but the King tells him to stop trying to be the world's conscience. He also tells Vizinho to keep an eye on the Columbus brothers for the nation will have need of them. Vizinho agrees.
As narrator, Columbus says that he had two passions in those days: his studies and Dona Felipe. He would secretly meet with her at night. Felipa does not like the school. The young women taunt her so and the school is just a holding place for women to get a husband. Columbus tells her he wants to marry her and will speak to her mother. Felipa says it's hopeless and it will spoil what they have now. They kiss.
Columbus asks permission from Dona Moniz Perestrello to court her daughter. She says that Felipa is of noble blood from one of the oldest families in Portugal. "You are not to court her. . . . Any marriage for Dona Felipa outside of the nobility is unthinkable."
Columbus brings his ideas of sailing west to reach China in order get around the blockade by the Turks to Vizinho. He asks Vizinho to arrange an audience for him to see the King so he can present his ideas. Vizinho says that the King is totally focuses on Africa and is not interested in the western ocean. Vizinho says others have presented such ideas, but it can never be done because the distances are just too great.
Columbus and Felipa continues to see each other secretly. He asks her if she would be willing to live with him Porto Santo? She says she would be willing to live anywhere with him. They kiss.
One of the girls reports to the nuns that Felipa has been seeing a man in secret. Two nuns come over to the couple to break up their meeting. She says she has sent for the Civil Guard and they will be here soon. Felipa urges Columbus to go. She goes with the nuns.
Columbus returns to see Dona Moniz Perestrello. He says that his not being from the nobility is actually. He says he does not expect any dowry from the cash-strapped family. And he will live in Porto Santo and look after the family's holdings there.
Columbus marries Felipa [in 1479 at the age of 28 or 29].
As narrator, Columbus says that Felipa's father had been a sea captain as well as a provincial governor. Her father had a treasure in terms of charts and maps. As Felipa waits for her husband on her wedding night, Columbus is busy studying her father's maps. She has to get up and go find her husband. He apologizes to her.
The Island of Porto Santo, 1484. As narrator, Columbus says the years in Porto Santo were happy and loving ones. He now has a son [Diego Columbus born 1479 or 1480].
Columbus tells Felipa that there is a ship headed for Fort da Mina on the Gold Coast and he has signed on as an officer. She says she has heard that Fort da Mina is an awful place. Columbus agrees, but he says there are measurements that can be made only there on the Equator. She begs him not to to away again for she hates it when he travels. He only says: "I'll be back."
Fort da Mina, Portuguese West-Africa. As narrator, Columbus says he wanted to get measurement of the stars in the skies, but instead of finding heaven, he found hell. He is very bothered by the cruelty of slavery. He sees a slave try to escape via the ocean, but a guard shoots the slave in the back. One of the white men he meets is Benguela. He detest the man in his role of participator in the slave system. The guy tells Columbus to go to hell.
Columbus receives a letter. He immediately sets sail for Lisbon. His brother meets him at the dock and tells him that his wife has a high fever and nothing they do for her seems to help. Back home, he finds his son crying over his mother. He goes to see his wife. She tells him not to let Diego grow up among strangers. She encourages him to find the world beyond the western ocean. Felipa tells him to guard his secrets, because he's too open and others may steal his ideas.
Felipa dies . While still grieving over his wife's death, the King calls him in to discuss his ocean project. It seems the King gave up on the idea of circumnavigating the African continent. The King tells Columbus that his advisors think that, judging from his proposal, Columbus must be mad. He does, however, ask for some more time to consider the project. Columbus leaves. The King deal his closest advisors that there is something to the ideas of Columbus, so the advisors are to make sure that Columbus does not leave Lisbon.
Vizinho quickly gets hold of the Columbus brothers. He tells them that the King has chose two captains to take a voyage out on the western ocean, based on Christopher's ideas. If these captains fail, then Columbus brothers will be blamed. If they succeed, then the King will have the brothers killed to silence them. In short, the brothers are in danger and must leave Lisbon at once. Go to Spain and see Father Marchena of the Monastery at La Rabida. He is a learned geographer and a good man. Christopher asks why is Vizinho helping him now, when he at first so discouraged him and the project? Vizinho says the King is no longer focusing solely on Africa and Vizinho admits that he himself was just wrong. He tells the brothers to go now.
Christopher and Diego are rowed out to sea to catch a ship.
Port of Palos, Spain. One of the sights seen by Columbus and his son was the sight of men roped together as prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition. This worries Columbus, because he has new and different ideas. He wonders if he will become a victim of the Inquisition and fanatics like Father Linares.
Christopher and Diego go to see Father Marchena, and he proves to be very interested in the proposal. The holy man suggests that Columbus get to know Duke Medinacelli who may be interested in the proposal. The Duke is a very influential man at court. He lives in Seville. Father Marchena says he will give Christopher a letter of intrioduction to the Duke and the monastery will be very glad to keep Diego with them in the monastery and let him be tutored there.
Christopher explains to Diego that he can't come with him on his journey to Seville because Spain is at war with the Moors.
On the way to Seville, some soldiers tells Christopher to ride with them because of the dangers presented by the Moors. Christopher goes with them. The Moors do attack the small Spanish convoy. A Moor jumps on Christopher on his horse, knocking him off and onto the ground. The Moor drops his sword in the fray; Christopher grabs it; and uses it to kill his attacker. The Spanish do very well against the Moors, and the few surviving Moors retreat.
Duke Medinacelli loves the proposal and gets an audience for Columbus with the King and Queen of a section of Spain: Castile, Leon and Aragon. Christopher goes to court, but is not granted a chance to introduce his proposal. Then the King has to be present at the siege of Malaga. The Duke tells Columbus that he must just keep coming back.
Discouraged, Columbus goes to pray at the chapel. He asks God for strength to carry on with his project. Queen Isabella is there in the church and she overhears his prayer.
As the Queen passes by in a procession, she stops to ask Columbus who is he? He tells her and she says she was impressed by the letters of introduction from Father Marchena and Duke Medinacelli. She tells Columbus that she can give him a few minutes now. He goes with her. She speaks with him in private and is moved by his conviction.
While waiting for word from the court, Columbus earns some money by drawing sea charts for mariners. And now he has time to visit with his son at the Monastery. From Father Marchena, he learns that Vizinho's enemies were too strong for him, and he was executed. That upsets Columbus.
A merchant introduces Columbus to his cousin and ward, Beatrice, a peasant girl from the hills. They become friends, but nothing more. But with time he comes to be very fond of her, but never enough to marry her. Father Marchena then tells Columbus that in that case he must stop seeing the woman.
Duke Medinacelli tells Columbus to come to a hearing to tell the advisers of his projects. Father Linares says that Columbus speak heresy and some other agree. Other people say the ocean is 10,000 miles wide, a distance much too great for any ship to cross.
Columbus goes back home and finds his peasant girl laying naked in his bed.
The four-month Siege of Malaga, 1487. The war with the Moors still goes on, preoccupying the King and Queen. There was no end in sight. To hurry the war along, Columbus signs on as a lowly soldier. He gets wounded in battle and is given permission to go home. When he gets home, Beatrice has given birth to a baby.
Christopher's brother tells Columbus not to marry the peasant girl. He says the peasant girl can't be introduced at court for she will only be an embarrassment to Christopher. Beatrice from her bed overhears the talk. Later she speaks with Christopher in private. She says she thought they would marry one day. Christopher tells her he loves her and wants to be with her always, but right now he can't marry her, but he will marry her sometime later.
Several years pass before he hears about his project. The committee agrees that to reach Asia would take a voyage of some three years. Even if the ship made it across, it would not be able to make the voyage back home. Christopher is furious over the ignorance of the reviewers of his project.
Columbus returns to his home. Their financial situation is very bad. They can't even keep the house warm and they meager portions to eat. Columbus says he will go to France and the French will listen to his proposal.
Granada. January 2, 1492. The war with the Moors finally ends. The Moors surrender Granada to the Spanish. The victory changed everything. Before Columbus takes off for France, Duke Medinacelli calls for Columbus to the Alhambra palace.
Columbus gets permission to sail from the port of Palos in the southwestern Spanish province of Huelva, but he demands that he be given 1/10 of the profits from the voyage. With that the King tears up the document allowing Columbus to sail.
The King and Queen talk more about the situation and agree to grant Columbus' demands.
Columbus has such a hard time getting sailors that he has to go to the prison and offer prisoners general amnesty to get crew members. Captain Pinzon wants to be one of the captains of the ships going with Columbus on his voyage. He speaks to the crowds of people at the dock to recruit sailors. Pinzon does gets some men signed on as sailors. A 16 year old boy named Vallejo Sanchez wants to be cabin boy and asks Columbus about it. Columbus lets him sign up for the ship the Santa Maria. A Jewish man named Luis de Torres, who knows many languages wants to sign on. Pinzon doesn't want the man because he is Jewish. Columbus has to tell Pinzon that he outranks Pinzon and he wants the man onboard. Pinzon walks away. Don Castillo tells Columbus that he made an enemy out of Pinzon by insisting on the hiring of Torres.
August 3, 1492. The three ships are ready to cast-off. The Santa Maria leads the way with Columbus as captain. The Pinta and the Nina follow behind. As they pull out Columbus discovers that there are three Portuguese Men-of-War ships are following them. Columbus will tray to outrun then. He succeeds.
They are on their way to Cipango in Cathay. Pinzon reports a piece of sabotage to Columbus. Someone or some bodies want to turn around and go home, so they are sabotaging some of the equipment. Columbus tells Pinzon to tell his sailors that soon they will be past the halfway point and there won't be any point to turning the vessels around. Don Castillo wanted to make an example out of one of the men to scare the rest, but Columbus says no. Then Don Castillo says he's now having doubts about Columbus' toughness to be a true leader.
The longer the voyage, the more worried the crews become. Columbus tells the men to have faith in God, for he will see them through the voyage.
The crew gets a scare when the compass reads northwest of west. Soon the conditions change and the compass starts reading correctly.
Pinzon comes to see Columbus during a lull in the wind. He says that they should start heading for home. Columbus says no. Pinzon appeals to Captain Vicente to say that they should turn around. Columbus says if the two other ships turn around and do make it home, they will be seen as traitors and deserters. He asserts that he is the overall commander of the ships and he is going on.
Columbus as narrator says that: "A mood of sullen despair enveloped the fleet." The men start thinking of mutiny. The men mutiny on the Santa Maria. Columbus tells them that without him an his knowledge of the stars, the currents, the maps, the men will never make it back to Spain. And if by some miracle they did make it, they will be hanged for mutiny. He tells them to give him three more days and if they haven't seen land by then, they will turn the ships around.
Columbus spots land birds flying overhead. Then he finds a flower floating on the ocean.
October 12, 1492. Land is sighted [probably Watling Island in the Bahamas]. The boats are anchored and men are rowed to the shore in three long boats. The area has a lot of palms and coconut trees. Columbus claims the land for the King and Queen of Spain and christens it San Salvador. The men don't know it, but they are being watched by the native people [the Lucayan people, a branch of the Taínos who inhabited most of the Caribbean islands at the time].
The Lucayan men come on the beach. They bow down in front of the Spanish thinking they are gods. Columbus greets the front Lucayan man. He trades a bell trinket for a gold ornament. They see that that Lycayan people are friendly.
Columbus knows that this is not Cathay, and doesn't really know where he is, except for latitude and longitude. They stayed only two days on San Salvador. They take two warriors on board so the Spanish interpreter can learn their language.
They find another island that he names the Santa Maria de la concepcion.
At another stop, Pinzon takes his ship and leaves. Columbus is furious with Pinzon. The admiral now sails to an island that was named Hispaniola [today's Haiti and the Dominican Republic]. There he meets the chief, Guacanabo. They go east to his village. There he gives them gold gifts and says they are from a placed called Cibao. The men like the native women and the chief has the women dance for the guests.
Columbus sets sail again. The ship hits some obstacles and springs a leak. Columbus is furious at the man handling the rudder. As narrator, Columbus says they would have lost everything if it hadn't been for Guacanabo and his people. The admiral uses the interpreter to tell the chief how grateful he is to the chief and people.
Columbus is going to leave 35 to 40 sailors behind because he only has one boat now.
One of the crew has sex with one of the native women. He tells her he loves her.
Pinzon lands and puts the native people to work for him sifting for gold in the river. Forced labor and the Spanish ravaging of the native women makes the Spanish very unpopular.
Columbus builds a small fort at La Navidad and then decides to sail back to Spain. His interpreter wants to stay behind at the fort. Columbus says goodbye to the natives and the Spanish men he is leaving behind.
As they sail for Spain, they find Pinzon and the Pinta.
Columbus balls out Pinzon. And he tells him to fork over any gold items he has found or gotten from the natives. Furthermore, the four native women with Pinzon will travel on Columbus' ship, not the Pinta.
The return voyage has good weather al the way to near the Azores. A storm hits the two ships. Contact between the two ships is now lost. Columbus starts despairing over the situation.
They make it out of the storm. Columbus decides to stop in Lisbon to put in for repairs. As narrator, Columbus says they were completely at the mercy of the Portuguese in Lisbon. He says: "I feared for my life."
King John meets one of the native people Columbus brought with him. The King is very gracious to Columbus and lets him leave as soon as his ship is repaired.
Now Columbus land in Spain. A big crowd gives him a good reception. He meets his brother and Father Marchena. He is taken in a carriage to his home, where he kisses his wife and children. Later he tells Beatrice to come to court with him as his wife.
Pinzon arrives in Spain and he prepares himself to be welcomed as the sole hero of the expedition. But then a sailor shouts out that the Nina is already in port. Pinzon sees the other ship but shouts out that he doesn't believe it.
Columbus as narrator says that very night Pinzon, who was already ill, died.
Columbus is given a hero's welcome at court.
In private, the Queen encourages Columbus to wed the mother of his second son. But when Columbus asks Beatrice, she tells him not now. She feels more comfortable living with her son in her present location. Beatrice says when Columbus has finished with his voyages, then they can talk about the matter again.
The second voyage of Columbus has 17 ships and 1,200 crew members.
On November 28, the ship reach La Navidad. The fort at La Navidad is now in ruins and there are no signs of the men that stayed there. Columbus establishes a new settlement and names it Isabella.
Columbus goes inland with a large group. There is at least one Spaniard still left alive and still with the native woman he had sex with. Columbus is taken to see Chief Guacanabo, who tells the admiral that the natives of Marien and Maguana on the far side of the island are the ones who killed the Spaniards. Father Linares is on the trip and he says that it was the Chief himself who massacred the Spanish in the fort. Guacanabo asks Columbus if he doubts his friend, the Chief? Columbus says no and shakes hands with the Chief. He then asks the Chief if they could provide the Spanish with a guide to take them to Cibao? The answer is yes.
Father Linares says he wants to go back to the Isabella village and administer to the spiritual needs of the Spaniards. Columbus says he will stay with Chief Guacanabo and teach Christianity to the natives. Father Linares doesn't want to, as he sees the natives as just savages. Columbus insists that Father Linares stays put.
One of the crew is flogged for trading with the natives for his own private source of gold. This was only the beginning of a series of misfortunes for the Spanish. Many of the Spanish because ill. Then there came a revolt among the wealthiest , the hidalgos, who says the Columbus is a fraud because this is not Asia at all. The hidalgos steal a ship and head back for Spain.
The first relief ship arrives and on board is Bartholomew. Columbus is really surprised to see his brother. At dinner Columbus says that he has to go back to Spain to defend himself against the slanders that Father Linares will spread against him. He places Bartholomew in charge while he is gone.
Columbus is delayed in setting sail for Spain by a couple of hurricanes.
Father Linares says to the King and Queen that Columbus is a foreigner and a commoner and he has a grudge against the Spanish nobility. And he is friends with Chief Guacanabo who is responsible for massacring the Spanish inhabitants of La Navidad.
Columbus arrives in Palos to a very different atmosphere than the first time he came back to Spain. The people jeer Columbus for bringing so many sick men back and so little of the gold promised from Cathay.
Columbus complains to the King and Queen that all types of lies have been told against him. And he wants to know why were these mutineers not punished. He also condemns Father Linares for not really want to teach the Indians Christianity. Columbus promises too much, because he thinks Cathay is very nearby the new lands. Even the King tells Columbus enough with the promises!
The sole survivor of Isabella village comes to talk to Bartholomew. He tells him that Captain Marden and his men rape, steal and flog. Natives are starving because one Spanish man eats as much in a day what would feed an Indian family for a week. At times, who native villages are slaughtered. He then tells Bartholomew that if he doubts what the man is telling him, all he has to do is go and see for himself.
Bartholomew finds out that it's true, but when he orders the arrest of Captain Marden, the soldiers protect Marden from arrest.
The Queen tells Columbus that he must now bring back some wealth from the areas he discovers, or else his critics will stop him from going on another journey. When Columbus does return to the new areas, he learns that the priest had made some progress in converting the natives to Christianity. He also learns that a new settlement, this one in the south, was built and is now called Santo Domingo. He also learns that the natives rebelled and killed Captain Marden and many of his men. Bartholomew blames Marden and Don Castillo for abusing the natives and pushing them to strike back at the whites. And now the natives are gathering more forces to strike at the whites.
There is a showdown between the two forces. Three rifle volleys stops the natives from charging any closer. They start to retreat. Then the cavalry chases after the natives cutting them down with their swords. The chief kills one of the cavalry men, but then he is slashed across his back with a sword. The soldiers start burning the natives huts to the ground. The woman of the sole survivor of the village of Isabella, finds her family slashed to death by swords. Then two soldiers arrive and cut the man down to try to get at the woman.
The Chief is still alive and he is brought to see Columbus. Columbus says if the Chief promises to keep the peace, he and his people will be released. The Chief says that there can be no peace until all the whites are gone. Columbus says that the natives will remain as prisoners. The problem with that option is that it's expensive to keep feeding the native prisoners. So Columbus says the prisoners will be sold into slavery at the slave markets of Seville, Spain. And that will give the Spanish lots of money.
The sole Isabella survivor Frederico is still alive but his wound has become infected. He begs the doctor to let him see his woman, Coana.
Columbus tells his brother that he must go now in search of the main continent. Bartholomew will be left in charge again.
Coana comes to see her man. He asks her to stay with him.
Columbus sails to the south. Meanwhile, Columbus is greatly criticized because 200 of the natives died in route to Spain. And upon arrival in Spain many of the natives were very ill. The Queen was very outraged. And the King was not satisfied with the money brought in by the sale of the natives people into slavery.
Columbus talks to other chiefs about where are the riches and they tell him enough of what he wants to hear to send him on his way. A huge storm descends up them.
Frederico recovers from the infection of his wound. Now he and Coana try to take care of the children of the village.
Columbus retreats back to Isabella village. When he arrives he's placed under arrest. In a struggle, the native interpreter is killed. Columbus is taken to see Don Bombadilla. He shows his orders to arrest Columbus. The orders are dated March 21, 1499. Columbus asks where's his brother? Bartholomew went up into the mountains with soldiers loyal to him and Bombadilla wants Columbus to write a letter asking Bartholomew to surrender peacefully. At first, Colombus says no.
Don Castillo goes to the prison to talk with Columbus. He says he has petitioned for ships of his own, so he can go searching for gold and silver.
Columbus writes his brother to give up peacefully. His brother surrenders peacefully.
Captain Valdez comes to see Columbus. The two brothers are being sent back to Spain.
Frederico wants to marry Coana and take her with him to Spain. She will marry him, but she will not go to Spain. Her people need her. Frederico says he must leave for Spain.
The Columbus brothers are placed in the Monastery at La Rabida. There Christopher is reunited with the Chief.
Christopher writes to the Queen and is released from the Monastery. Along with his brother, he goes to see the King and Queen. The Queen explains that they never dreamed that Bombadilla would imprison Christopher and his brother. They are recalling Bombadilla from the Isabella and sending Don Nicolas de Ovando in his place. Columbus wants to go back on another expedition. Her Majesty tells him that they will do all that they can for him.
Columbus returns to Beatrice and waits for months to hear from the King and Queen. Then one day the Queen sends for Columbus. Isabella is very ill. Columbus comes to see her. She sits on her throne. Columbus says that he was a failure. He never found Cathay. The Queen insists that Columbus is a great man who has given us a whole new world - a world without limits. Columbus says he owes it all the his Queen who supported all his efforts.
The Queen dies.
The King receives Columbus. He offers the famous explorer the Duchy of los Condes, but he has to renounce his former agreement that gave him much greater power and status. Columbus says he won't do it. The King tells him to go.
Diego marries. Diego and his wife visit his parents. The King is going to make Diego take charges of the new areas. Furthermore, he shall be the Second Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Columbus is much happier after hearing about this news.
Diego and his wife sail for the new land areas.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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