Petr Jákl, a Czech director, actor, and stuntman, wrote and directed the war movie “Medieval,” which follows the journey of Jan Zizka, a Czech hero and military leader in the fifteenth century. It is a big-budget film that stars Michael Caine and Ben Foster and is rated R due to the horrific beheadings, eviscerations, amputations, assaults on women, and the skewering of innocent civilians. The movie struggles to have a historical reference, but when the action picks up, it’s engaging and thrilling. “Medieval” would have been a surefire blockbuster had the historical portion matched the violent graphic scene. Additionally, the movie’s 126-minute runtime felt excessively long.
What Happens In The ‘Medieval’ Film?
“Medieval” opens in 1402 and depicts Europe in a state of chaos following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Everything has changed for the worse. Europe was engulfed in war, plague, and famine, resulting in two Popes’ elections. One was in Rome, and the other was in Avignon under French protection. The first scene discusses how the coronation of a new emperor can reinstate the rule of law, putting an end to the turmoil and bringing about stability. Bohemian King Wenceslas, the eldest son of Emperor Charles IV, was selected for this purpose. Only the Pope of Rome had the authority to choose him, so those who supported Pope II of France were determined to prevent his coronation at any cost. This is also made extremely clear at the beginning of the movie when the King of Rosenborg sends his troops to kill Lord Boresh, who was working to provide a safe passage to Rome for Bohemian King Wenceslas. Jan Zizka’s character, who was tasked with keeping Lord Boresh safe, appears for the first time in the film at this point. Throughout the movie, Jan Zizka and his band of tough warriors are heavily outnumbered, and this scenario is no exception. Even so, they had no trouble taking down the assassins and rescuing Lord Borash. A soldier informed them that the King of Rosenborg had dispatched these troops to kill Lord Boresh.
The movie then continues with King Wenceslas, King Sigismund, and Lord Rosenborg discussing Rosenborg’s obligation to provide them with money in order for Wenceslas to be crowned as the new emperor. King Sigismund, King Winceslas’ half-brother, is worried about the impending winters because that will make travel to Rome impossible. On the other hand, Lord Rosenborg worries about the money that King Wenceslas owes him. But in truth, Lord Rosenborg’s concern that King Wenceslas would be assassinated while traveling to Rome is the reason, he wanted Lord Boresh killed. The next scene introduces Lady Katherine (Sophie Lowe), Lord Rosenborg’s fiancée. She is visible throughout most of the movie and appears to be raising her voice against King Sigismund’s law; she is later abducted as a result. Jan Zizka and the other men decide to carry out the plan despite their objections to kidnapping a woman.
What Happened During The Abduction Of Katherine?
Director Petr Jákl shows a small reunion between Jan Zizka and his brother, Jaroslav, before Zizka goes on the mission to abduct Katherine. It is apparent from this scene that Jan Zizka and his brother Jaroslav have a neutral relationship, and they rarely meet. The reunion scene makes it apparent when Jaroslav’s son meets him for the first time and has a bunch of questions and things that Jaroslav doesn’t want him to ask and say. Not only that, Zizka has no idea who his brother’s wife is and how she died. Katherine is revealed to have deep devotion and infatuation with Jan Hus, who favors the teachings of Jesus over those of the Pope. Jan Hus was also against all of these kings and lords going to war, and he condemned many aspects of the Catholic Church in Bohemia, such as their ideas on ecclesiology, simony, the Eucharist, and many more.
Katherine can also be viewed as a political pawn whom everyone wants because she is the King of France’s niece. The film’s primary plot begins when Jan Zizka kidnaps Katherine, and King Sigismund becomes an ally of Lord Rosenborg by double-crossing his half-brother and the Bohemian King, Wenceslas, who doesn’t have a hint of the situation. This clearly demonstrates Petr Jákl’s effort to capture Jan Zizka’s essence. Also, it is clear that the movie’s reliance on these types of scenic motivation to reveal the individuals’ genuine goals and mindsets is what weakens the movie.
Michael Caine, for example, has played mostly the second or third fiddle role in movies toward the latter half of his career, that too as a loyal being to the first fiddle role, but as “Medieval” is reaching its end, we don’t see much depth to his performance. Jan Zizka’s reunion with his brother had unintended consequences because Torak, whom King Sigismund had sent, kidnapped Jaroslav and left Jaroslav’s son severely wounded. As the film’s plot moves along, Jan Zizka is seen employing innovative military strategies to drive back the men of Torak. This specific scene demonstrates why he deserved the title of hero. His ability as a leader is further demonstrated by the fact that he could frequently include local peasants in his attacking strategies. Then came the moment when he lost his left eye during an attack by Torak and his troops in the cave where Zizka, with all his band of soldiers, was seen hiding. The plot begins to center more on Katherine and Jan Zizka after Katherine helps save Zizka from drowning.
Katherine can also be considered a character that helps Jan Zizka discover his true purpose as he is caught between his King’s good and bad deeds. This can also be considered the beginning of him being referred to as a hero. This viewpoint is reflected in the film as well when Lord Rosenborg’s soldiers arrive to hang David for assisting Jan Zizka. Katherine questions Jan Zizka’s integrity, wondering how he can stand this, which makes Jan Zizka realize that he can bring peace and that his self-belief will inspire others to believe in themselves and fight for their rights. He then saves David after seeing that Katherine has also started to believe in herself and cannot stand against the wrongdoings of these soldiers.
Jan Zizka can be seen reuniting with his comrades near the end of the mid-screenplay, but he has a change of plan. He orders that Katherine be delivered to her father, who can easily defeat Lord Rosenborg, but his men revolt against him and decide to deliver Katherine to the Bohemian King. Not only that, Zizka’s affection for Katherine can be seen in this scene as he wants to deliver her to her father, but he also tries to open up about Anna, who was killed by the King’s knights for killing a falcon. The scene also shows Zizka’s discontent with his father’s belief that kings were selected by the Gods. This belief, which has been quite common throughout European history, is based on several philosophical frameworks that claim that a king is already predetermined to be the heir to the throne before birth.
‘Medieval’ Ending Explained: Is Katherine Dead Or Alive?
David came to see Jan Zizka, but he also came as a messenger for Lord Borash, who had been severely injured. Lord Boresh informs Zizka of everything that has occurred in the Hunting Castle and requests that Zizka keep King Sigismund from taking Katherine. If he succeeds in capturing Katherine, their empire will be completely annihilated, and there will be complete darkness. After Lord Boresh passes away, Jan begins to march toward the castle as it is his final mission. Again, he employs the help of the local peasants, who are, at this time, willing to sacrifice their lives for a noble cause.
On the other hand, Jan Zizka’s comrades have already arrived at the castle to deliver Katherine and have been attacked by Torak’s soldiers. But guess what? Jan arrived at the castle just in time, kicking off the film’s final battle. This battle scene is extremely gruesome because we see a lion feeding on live soldiers. The ultimate battle between Torak and Jan comes to an end when Katherine falls from the castle, which distracts Torak, giving Jan an opportunity to land a decisive blow. Katherine is then pulled out of the water by Zizka, who comes to know that she is about to die. Then, just before she passes away, Katherine hands Zizka her mother’s ring. Sigismund eventually becomes King of Bohemia, but the people revolt against him. Jan Zizka leads the army of outnumbered peasants against the army of Sigismund. The film concludes in the way it began, with the galloping of a steed and a soldier seated on it. The only difference is that in the beginning, it appeared to be a lone fighter, but the final scene showed Jan Zizka leading the peasant army. It concludes with the fact that Jan Zizka was never defeated.
This “never defeated” message can be seen as a possible sequel. However, we do not believe a sequel is required because the film did not perform well with the audience. The movie, in our opinion, mostly lives up to the money invested in it, but the script essentially takes a very long time to lay out the true story of the characters. Additionally, violence seems to be the only thing the film is interested in, not Jan Zizka’s genuine history. One aspect of the movie that deserves praise is Jesper Toffner’s cinematography, which excels at capturing epic battle sequences as well as stunning landscapes and commanding historical landmarks.
“Medieval” is a war drama film available on Video on Demand.