For Your 16th Century Viewing Pleasure
I am always on the lookout for *good* movies set in the 16th century. Though it seems impossible to capture the excitement of the Protestant “new thought,” the depth of brutality and religious strife, and the war, disease, and hardship of the era, cinema can painstakingly bring at least some of that “feel” to life. Unfortunately, almost every single movie I have seen concerning this era is so unsuitable for Christians that I could not even finish watching. Also, Huguenots (Calvinists) were shown as indulging in immoral behavior, card-playing, and other things that I am absolutely certain would have been seen as vices. Not to say, of course, that every Protestant was sinless and perfect --- no mortal man is or was, save Christ Himself --- but the fact that the movie-makers went to great pains to paint the devout Huguenots as “average Joes” was disturbing.
Here are the few 16th century movies that I believe are decent in regards to morality and violence. “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” from 2007, starring Cate Blanchett, was not overly immoral (actually, I did not see much at all that could be considered immoral, but, since I skipped through, I might have missed it. The description did mention it). There was some violence that was a bit disturbing, but it was mostly central to the storyline and not overly done. This movie was pleasant and rather lighthearted in places. It focused more on Elizabeth I’s later reign and struggles against Philip II of Spain in the age of the Spanish Armada. As such, religious conflict was rarely mentioned, though the backdrop certainly made the struggles obvious.
“Martin Luther,” which starred Joseph Fiennes and came out in 2003, was very good as well. There was some violence, mostly showing the aftershocks of the Peasants’ War, for the most part it was not upsetting. There is also an old “Martin Luther” movie starring Niall MacGinnis that I enjoyed. The PBS documentary “Martin Luther” was very good as well but, with all the guest speakers, rather dry. I was amused that they used one of my favorite quotes of Martin’s: “When I die, I want to be ghost . . . so I can continue to pester the bishops, priests, and godless monks until that they have more trouble with a dead Luther than they could have had before with a thousand living ones.” That gets me every time :-).
I still love the History Channel’s “Conquest of America” series best. My favorite part is “Conquest of the Southeast,” which deals with the French Huguenots in early Florida --- undoubtedly my favorite historical subject. The violence in this particular episode involved the 1565 Spanish raid on Fort Caroline and the subsequent Matanzas massacre. It showed blood but was done rather tastefully, I think (sadly, the actual scenes would have been much more brutal).
This is admittedly a rather pitiful list of movies set in the 16th century that I have seen. Finding one that does not demonize either side of the religious conflict, is not stained with gratuitous gore (some violence is expected in a war movie; but directors usually seem to enjoy putting in as much gore as they can), and has little or no immorality is nearly impossible. I do not expect anyone to “tone down” the blood and guts of the era, but neither do I want my Christian values to be threatened by having to witness such things. I am still on the lookout for movies. I am hoping to find good films concerning Lady Jane Grey and the English martyr Anne Askew. Wish me luck!
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved