Saxo Grammaticus Onscreen!
Megan Stoner | USA | 07/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If that name doesn't mean anything to you...don't feel bad. Most are far more familiar with Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' than with his source material, notably the 'Gesta Danorum' (Book of the Danes) by Saxo Grammaticus. 'Royal Deceit' (released in Europe as 'Prince of Jutland') is based on the Gesta, in particular the tale of Amleth, a prince who discovers his uncle murdered his father for his crown and feigns madness to take revenge. Sound familiar? This version is far less complicated and more straightforward than Shakespeare's, but that doesn't make it inferior; rather, it's a refreshingly simple look at the Norse legend behind the famous play.
That said, this film is definitely not for those who insist on sophisticated SFX, fast-paced action, and huge-scale battles. Combat is spare and usually represented by a couple of warriors on either side whacking each other with primitive swords, but realistically this is more in keeping with the sixth century than most of the epic-style stuff found in big-budget pictures. The costumes are extremely simple shifts and tunics, mostly, and are quite accurate for the period if not the most attractive things to look at. (Ethel's gown is a little form-fitting for the period, but then...it's Kate Beckinsale.) It was filmed on location in Denmark, and the scenery is really lovely.
The film is also remarkable for the quality of the performances, which are first-rate all around. Astonishing talents Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, and a young Christian Bale have most of the screen time, but look for truly enjoyable bit parts from the likes of Brian Cox, Kate Beckinsale, Tom Wilkinson, and - my favourite - Andy Serkis, better known as the man behind "The Lord of the Rings'" Gollum.
The action can be slow-paced for those accustomed to quick, cut-and-run pictures, but the story unfolds nicely. The narration in particular keeps well in the spirit of the Gesta, and there are some truly enjoyable scenes, particularly the scenes between Amleth and his mum Geruth and any time Brian Cox's King Aethelwine of Britain is onscreen. (Nobody chews scenery better than Brian Cox.) One warning, though, is in order: since this was primarily a Danish-funded film, it has rather a lot of nudity in it by American standards, including some full-frontal shots. I didn't find any of it offensive or out of place, but some may.
Perhaps I am biased as a Mediaeval Studies major, but I found 'Royal Deceit' enjoyable, for its own merit and as a nice alternative to all the Conan-style 'Mediaeval' pictures to be found elsewhere."
This "'Hamlet'-with-a-happy-ending" is a must-see!
worldsapart76 | Nashville, TN USA | 12/15/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Royal Deceit" (being based on the same myth as the Shakespeare play "Hamlet") is a wonderful movie despite it's seemingly "unknown" status. I was VERY happy when I found out that it was going to be released in the U.S. (it was previously released in Europe under the title "Prince of Jutland") and rushed to get it when it finally was. It displays wonderful performances by Gabriel Byrne and Christian Bale, with a small role by one of my favorites, Kate Beckinsale. With the exception of some [usual] Danish nudity, this movie is an all-around excellent film and I would definitely recommend it- like I always say, it takes "Hamlet" (one of my favorite Shakespeare plays) and gives it a happy ending, making it just as suspenseful without the depressing ending!"
Definitely NOT Hollywood - I liked it.
S. Pollington | Basildon, Essex United Kingdom | 04/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is NOT Shakespeare's Hamlet prince of Denmark, but an attempt to get closer to the tale on which Hamlet was based (as written by Saxo Grammaticus). It suffers (if that's the word) from being quiet, thoughtful, introspective and shot on a human scale, in a pallette of muted colours. For those who want knights in armour and Schwarzenegger lookalikes takin' out da bad guyz wit da sword uv justiss, don't bother. The costumes are pretty accurate for the period, and despite the comments of one reviewer, armies at that time often actually were only a few score men. It's the SIXTH century, not the sixteenth!For those who would enjoy a serious attempt to present a slice of historical life, it will be a welcome change from the usual formulaic dross that normally fills your screens."
An Authentic Attempt with Mixed Resuts
History on Film Buff | Maryland, USA | 09/06/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Royal Deceit" is an interesting if uneven movie, telling a Danish tale of regicide and revenge that is similar to "Hamlet". The filmmakers have opted for authenticity in the costumes and props and a kind of Passion Play style of acting and direction, with mixed results. While the sheer acting power and amazing charisma of Christian Bale as the Prince, Helen Mirren as his mother, and Gabriel Byrne as the corrupt king, is mesmerizing, their excellent work is frequently undermined by an underwritten and wandering script and occasionally laughable direction. The battle scenes are staged as if being acted on-stage in a small theater-in-the-round, an odd choice given that they are filmed in the great outdoors. Large warriors trot around on tiny moorland ponies to unavoidably comic effect, and there are other elements that, however historically accurate they may be, undercut the force of the drama.
A young Kate Beckinsdale makes a brief appearance as the maiden who weds Christian Bale; it's fun to see them together so young and then see them together again fifteen years later in "Laurel Canyon". You can also see Andy Serkis (Gollum in the LOTR trilogy) as one of the corrupt king's men.
The main reason to watch this movie is if you are a fan of Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, or Gabriel Byrne (Byrne is particularly ferocious in this movie). Christian Bale's versatility is on display here, and this movie makes you realize that the performances he gave in "Empire of the Sun", "Swing Kids", and "Newsies" barely scratched the surface of his capabilities. The dark streak he brings to the mad Prince is a preview of what he would later bring to the characters of Patrick Batemen ("American Psycho"), Trevor Resnik ("The Machinist") and of course Bruce Wayne, in "Batman Begins".
This movie is also interesting in that it manages to bring a different and surprising conclusion to the Hamlet legend; if you are interested in Shakespeare you may find this alternate version of his tragedy worth viewing."