Soldier of God (2005)

 

 

 

Director:     David Hogan. 

Starring:     Tim Abell (Rene), William Mendieta (Hasan), Mapi GalŠn (Soheila), Nicholas Kadi (Omar), Scott Cleverdon (Geoffrey), Michael Desante (Yaqut).

a Knight Templar must re-examine his life after a disastrous defeat by the Saracens in 1187

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

A large Templar knight named Rene says:  "I have taken vows as a poor knight of Christ in the Temple of Solomon to face the accursed enemies of the cross and fight with all the might God gives to me to defeat them in battle.  No Knight of Templar shall ever surrender or leave . . . .(unintelligible) . . . in the hands of the Saracen."

1187. Holy Land.  A Muslim assassin is attempting to kill Saladin's son.  Saladin has surrounded Tiberias.  A battle will take place at the Horns of Hattin.  There is a dispute among the leader as what to do.  One suggests that the Saracens will butcher them all, while another says:  "Let's kill every last one of them, once and for all." 

Rene viciously fights against the Muslims.  After he downs his opponents he repeatedly slashes them with his sword, leaving his white clothes with a bright red cross across the chest covered in blood.  He is a bloody mess.  A Muslim fighter knocks out Rene, who is then taken prisoner.  He and another man are tied to ropes and are pulled along by two men on horses.  The Muslims tell them not to worry because they will soon be ransomed.  At night the two Crusaders pray.  Rene's compatriot is too weak to travel and is left behind to finish dying in the desert.  The group comes across two other Muslims who are looking for the assassin trying to kill Saladin's son. 

At night Rene escapes, but during the day the heat proves too much for him.  His life is saved by a Muslim named Hasan who gives him water.  The two men part.  Rene continues his journey walking up and down huge sand hills.  After walking quite a while, Rene sees Hasan fighting off two men.  He starts to run to help Hasan.  Hasan manages to kill one of the attackers and the other is chased away by the oncoming Rene, acting as though he is possessed.  Rene returns to Hasan after chasing the other man away.  Hasan has been badly wounded in the leg.  Rene says he is bound for Aca.  Hasan tells him it belongs to Saladin now and asks:  "You didn't know?"  He adds:  "You don't know where you are."  Hasan is going to Jerusalem where now Rene is also going.  The Muslim is amused and a little shocked by Rene who wears a very itchy hair-shirt for religious purposes and has taken vows of purity. 

The area around Tiberias is attacked by the "Saracen dogs". 

Rene helps support Hasan as they march up and down the sand hills.  They get pelted during a sand storm.  Rene has to leave Hasan behind so he can go find help.  He will return for Hasan.  Rene has a tough time of it and keeps falling.  He finally reaches a tent in the desert.  He falls into the tent.  A woman living in the tent goes back with Rene to bring Hasan to the tent.  The woman is named Soheila.  She gives Hasan some of her husband's clothes and pulls the man's shoulder back into place.  Later Soheila tells Rene that he can go on his way to Jerusalem, but Rene responds:  "I will stay until he is mended."   At night, Rene is bothered by bad dreams. 

Rene asks Soheila where her husband is, but she does not answer.  She has an infant with her. 

The surviving assassin-hunter returns to headquarters.  He is asked where his companion is and he lies saying that the man was thrown from his horse and died.  He reports that they found no trace of the assassin. 

Rene watches as the attractive Soheila rinses herself with a little bit of water.  But as a Templar knight, he is not allowed to kiss or embrace women. 

Soheila welcomes her brother-in-law and another man named Omar to her tent.  She tells them that the two men with her are her guests. The Christian brought an injured Muslim to her to heal.  Omar is very offended by the presence of the Christian and he taunts Rene.  The brother-in-law is not thrilled either.  He says that his caravan was attacked by Raynald and he himself was held captive for ransom. The two new comers have to leave.  The brother-in-law says that a friend of his will be coming to the tent and he promised that his sister-in-law would prepare a feast for him. 

Hasan is feeling a bit better.  He tells Rene:  "Twice you saved my life."  Later it is Soheila's turn to watch Rene bathe with a little water.  She is a little taken aback, but keeps watching him. 

Hasan asks Rene if anyone came for him.  No is the answer.  Hasan responds:  "It must have been a dream"  He comments that Soheila is very beautiful, but Rene does not say anything about her looks.  Hasan and Rene debate about religion.  The Muslim does not approve of making a man a god and complains that the Christians are always trying to force people to worship their way.  Soheila comes to a partial defense of Rene by telling Hasan that she was forced to become a Muslim when her future husband and his people sacked her village.  She started out her new life as a servant to her future husband.  Later Rene talks with her.  She tells him that her husband was killed in battle.  Rene asks her why she refuses the offers of matrimony from her brother-in-law.  Because he would train her son to be a warrior and she has had enough of war. 

The search for the assassin continues.  Omar comments that Saladin will drive out the Christians.  He wants to know from the surviving assassin hunter how his partner really died. 

The expected guest, named Solomon, arrives.  He is of the Jewish faith.  Soheila prepares a feast for him and her other two guests.  He wonders if Hasan is the assassin, but Soheila says ":no".  The Christian will be going to Jerusalem.  The Jewish merchant complains that many Jews were killed when the Franks took Jerusalem.   From here the discussion becomes a bit nasty, forcing Soheila to tell the men to stop fighting about religion. 

Solomon starts to leave, but before he goes he has some bad news for Rene.  The Muslims have liberated Tiberias. In addition, there are very few Templars left.  Many were lined up and executed by beheading.  Rene can't believe it.  Solomon assures him that it is all true and that now there is so little point in his going on to Jerusalem.  Solomon leaves.

Hasan confesses to Renee and Soheila that yes, he is an assassin. He also says that he is nearly mended and will leave for Jerusalem in a day or two.

While Rene is out, Omar returns to the tent and tries to rape Soheila.  Hasan kills Omar.  Soheila is very upset and Rene gives her a lot of space to heal.  Hasan talks to Rene and tells him that he cannot save Jerusalem:  "Most likely you'll be killed."  He urges Rene to give up his Templar vows; he will still be a good Christian.  Hasan is leaving, but he wants Rene to stay with Soheila for awhile.  Soheila also wants Rene to stay.  She tells him that she doesn't even know who he is really.  But Rene insists upon leaving.  He says: "I serve my masters and God" and he doesn't question authority.  Soheil suggests that perhaps it's time for him to change paths.  Rene replies that he cannot.  He has taken vows of obligation, obedience, service and purity.    She asks him about his never having been with a woman.  She strokes his face. 

The next day Rene prepares to leave.  Soheila brings his once bloody uniform to him.  Now it is all clean with the red cross sewn solidly in place on the front of the uniform.  She then goes to prepare some food for his journey.  Rene puts his hair shirt back on.  Soheila cries as she cuts up vegetables.  She puts on a nice gown.

Four horsemen rush toward the tent.  Solomon is with them.  Hasan and Rene rush to the defense of Soheila and the tent.  One after another the two men kill the four attackers.  Once again Rene goes temporarily insane and starts unnecessarily slashing the body of a dead man.  Soheila is repulsed by all the bloodshed.  She goes over to Rene and touches him on the back to try to get him to stop his slashing.  In his rage he spins around and slashes Soheila.  He continues slashing her as she lies on the ground.  Hasan is absolutely shocked and tells him:  "You have the devil in you."  As Rene holds her she dies.   

Rene cleans her body and wraps her up a bit like a mummy.  Hasan will take her child with him.  He tells Rene:  "This land is not paradise, but hell!  Praise be to Allah, He has shown me a new path."  He will not go to Jerusalem.  But Rene says he is still going.  Before he leaves Rene flagellates himself with a whip.  He puts his re-bloodied uniform on and walks through the desert.  In the desert he takes off his clothes and walks around holding only his sword toward the heavens.  He says:  "I am but a humble servant. . . . There is no peace for me.  I have been impure."  He dies in the desert. 

 

Good movie, but it deliberately has a surreal atmosphere about it that some viewers may not like.  (The director says it was partly the result of their not having much money in their film budget.)  The director in his comments on the movie on the DVD says one reason why he liked the film script was that it had parallels with US President Bush and the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.   (It's said that more violence is committed out of fear, rather than anger.)  The hero in the film is a bit deluded like Bush and misbehaves (as in the slashing of the dead bodies) like Bush (with his torturing of prisoners).  Both characters seem a bit mad to rational people.  And like Bush, the West felt threatened by the Muslims and engaged in a number of "crusades" against them.   And also like Bush, Rene has a number of morally questionable values (comparable to some of the values of the radical Muslims). 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

1095  --  First Crusade begins. 

1099  --  the First Crusade captures Jerusalem.  European pilgrims start traveling to that city.  But these pilgrims are not very safe.  They are the victims of bandits and are sometime slaughtered in the journey from Jaffa to the Holy Land. 

c. 1119  --  French knight Hugues de Payens and his relative Godfrey de Saint-Omer push for the founding of a monastic order that would protect the pilgrims. In Jerusalem King Baldwin II gives them a headquarters on the Temple Mount in the Al Aqsa Mosque.  The Temple Mount was thought to lie on the ruins of the Temple of Solomon and the Templars called the Mosque Solomon's Temple.  The new order came to be known as the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or, simply "Templar" knights. The Order was indeed "poor" because it had only nine knights and had to rely on a few donations just to survive. 

The Templars are organized as a monastic order with a rigid chain of command.  Knights are to have no physical contact of any kind with women (even if they are members of their own family).

1129  --  due to the great advocacy of Bernard of Clairvaux (a nephew of one of the founding knights), at the Council of Troyes, the Church endorses the Templars.  As a result, money starts pouring in to the Order.  And the sons of noblemen start coming into the order. 

1139  --  the Templars could travel freely across borders because Pope Innocent II issues a papal bull exempting the Order from obeying local laws. This ruling meant that the Templars only had to answer to the Pope himself. 

1150  --  the Order becomes so wealthy (greatly benefiting from knights placing their resources in the hands of the Order while they were away fighting in the Crusades) that it begins generating letters of credit for pilgrims heading to Jerusalem.  (They could retrieve their funds in the Holy Land, thereby making them a less attractive target for bandits.)

1169  --  Saladin is appointed vizier of Egypt and later rules the country as sultan. 

during the 1170s and 1180s   --  the Muslim forces are united by Saladin.  Now the Kingdom of Jerusalem is surrounded, for the first time, by the Muslims under one ruler. 

1174  --  Saladin rules over Damascus. 

1177  --  500 Templar knights help defeat Saladin's army 26,000 plus soldiers at the Battle of Montgisard.. 

 early 1180s --  an uneasy truce.  Later the truce is broken by Raynald with his raids on Muslim caravans.  Raynald even threatens to attack Mecca. 

1186  --  Guy of Lusignan becomes king of Jerusalem after the death of his wife Sibylla's son Baldwin V.  Jerusalem is divided between the "court faction" of Guy, newcomers Raynald of Chatillon, Gerard of Ridefort and the Knights Templar and the "noblesí faction" led by Raymond III of Tripoli.  Open warfare almost breaks out between Guy and Raymond III.  Raymond considers besieging Tiberias, a fortress held by Raymond through his wife Eschiva, Princess of Galilee. 

1186  --  Raymond makes a separate truce with Saladin.

1187  --  Raymond allows the sultan to send an army into the northern part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

1187 (May 1)  --  a small force under Muslim Al-Afdal defeats an embassy was on its way from Jerusalem to Tripoli to negotiate a settlement between Raymond and Guy at the Battle of Cresson.  Guy and his army marches north to meet Saladin.  Raymond reconciles with Guy.  Guy and Raymond then meet at Acre with the bulk of the remaining crusader army.  Henry II of England donated the money to hire an extra force of mercenaries.

1187 (July 2)  --  Saladin lays siege to Raymondís fortress of Tiberius while the main Muslim army remains at Kafr Sabt. The fortress falls the same day after a mined tower exploded a breach in the walls of the fortress.  Guy then moves his army east, leaving the safety of his defenses. (Gerard and Raynald convinced Guy to make the move, despite the objections of Raymond.) Guy marches against Saladin at Tiberias, for which Saladin had planned.

1187 (July 4)  --    the Muslim armies under Saladin defeat the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin (a.k.a. "The Horns of Hattin" for a double hill of a nearby volcano) near Tiberias in present day Israel.  Most of the Crusader forces are killed or captured.  (Saladin personally beheads Raynald, while Raymond dies of pleurisy. Guy was ransomed.)  The Islamic forces go on to re-conquer Jerusalem and other Crusader-held cities.

1189  -- start of the Third Crusade led by Richard Lionheart, Philip Augustus and Frederick Barbarossa.  

 

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