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La Chanson de Roland

The Song of Roland
Roland - Die Horden des Eisernen Ritters

France 1978
produced by
Jean-Serge Breton for Aviva Film, France 3, Images du Monde, Z Productions
directed by Frank Cassenti
starring Klaus Kinski, Alain Cuny, Dominique Sanda, Pierre Clémenti, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Monique Mercure, Niels Arestrup, Serge Merlin, László Szabó, Mario González, Yvan Jabejoff, Isabelle Mercanton, Dominique Valentin, Marilu Marini, Jean-Claude Brialy, Alain Astruc, Silvia Badescu, Chil Boiscuille, Jean Boissery, Gabriel Cinque, Jacques Bryland, Christian Colin, Daniel Denise, Marc Depond, Mostefa Djadjam, Benjamin Feitelson, Louba Guertchikoff, Alain Grellier, Hugues Kastner, Elisabeth Kaza, Bruno La Brasca, Bruno Moynot, Julian Negulesco, Dominique Lacarrière, Catherine Lecocq, Sylvie Matton (as Sylvie Meyer), Jean-Gabriel Nordmann, Pierre Orcel, Pierre Remund, Alain Salomon, Gérard Sergue, Cirylle Spiga, André Valverde, Serge Wagner, Francois Guillaume
written by Michèle-Anne Mercier, Thierry Joly, Frank Cassenti, music by Antoine Duhamel

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The 13th century: A group of pilgrims are on their way to Santiago de Compostela, a way which takes them at all 130 days, and everywhere they stop, they stage the legend of Roland for all those who are interested and also for themselves ...

Roland (Klaus Kinski) was a hero from the times of Charles le Magne (Jean-Pierre Kalfon), who helped the King of France fight the Saracenes in Spain, and who went to take Sargossa with a mere handful of men. Roland however is betrayed by Ganelon (Serge Merlin), another of Charles' men who envied Roland's position and gave his plans away to the Saracenes - but still Roland and his men are able to hold off the Saracene army until Charles and his army arrives - even if it costs Roland's life ...

Back in the 13th century: The pilgrims journey leads them through strips of land ravaged by the war of the knights against their serfs, they see the virtual horrors of war. Especially Klaus (Klaus Kinski), the actor who plays Roland, is deeply disturbed by what he sees, but he is impressed by Anna (Dominique Sanda), one of the serfs, who despite all the cruelties hasn't lost her will to go on ... and ultimately, Klaus splits from the group, tired of just performing heroics, and he becomes what you would now call a political activists, fighting for the rights of the serfs - but since political activism was something you just didn't do int he 13th century, he is ultimately executed (off-screen).

 

The underlying concept of the film, telling its story on two narrative levels that, though seperated by centuries, manage to influence each other, is interesting to say the least. Unfortunately the film built upon that concept is less so, as it is lazily directed, lacks strong characters and is somewhat heavy-handed in its delivery of its political, socialist message that doesn't sit too well with its medieval scenery and seems a bit forced upon history (even though most of the facts taken by themselves are accurate enough).

So maybe it wasn't such a good idea of trying to merge the legend of a hero and a (socialist) message film after all, was it ?

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD