What a fantastic movie. A lavish historical epic with likable characters and a great story. So much better than Kingdom of Heaven although that is not a bad movie at all. Only, I did not care much about the characters and the story. Big difference here. Arn: Knight Templar makes you care. You want to know what happens, you feel outrage when the main characters suffer wrong and you admire them and enjoy watching them.
Based on the novels by Jan Guillou this multinational co-production (we hear at least 5 different languages: Swedish, English, French, Arabic and Latin) centers on Arn, the son of a Swedish noble man. He falls in love with Cecilia, who is promised to another man. When their love is found out they are sentenced. Cecilia is to spend her days in a convent, Arn must join the Knight Templars and travel to the Holy Land. He will experience the brutality of the Crusades but still remain true to himself and stay just, courageous and open-minded. Cecilia on her side endures many hardships. The worst is certainly that they take away her newborn son, as he has been conceived in sin.
We see many a battle scene, breathtaking landscapes (the movie was filmed in Sweden, Scotland and Morocco) and we wonder once more how people can fight bloody battles in the name of religion.
Even though a major part of it, the battles, the fights and the beauty of the scenery are not the the only good aspects of the movie. The depiction of the Middle Ages, centering on a bloodthirsty Catholicism, is what makes this movie memorable. How horrible the Catholicism of those times has been, with its belief in sin and eternal damnation, its attempt to spread the faith all over this world, and even in bringing warfare to every corner of the earth. And the way they treated women and people of other faiths… Abominable.
Last but not least this is also a beautiful love story.
The cast is quite interesting. We see, once more, Stellan Skarsgard, but also Vincent Perez, Milind Soman, Bibi Andersson (she gives a chilling performance as a frankly sadistic nun), Sofia Helin and, starring as Arn, Joakim Nätterqvist.
I have a seen the shorter version. There are apparently two. I believe the longer one is better. A word of caution: there is some weird jumping in the time going on. This needs some getting used to. Maybe it is due to the cuts.
Be it as it may, watch it as soon as you can. You won´t regret it.