Techniques used by the producers of the award winning film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to try to interpret and present the legend of Robin Hood
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
In this essay I am to look at the techniques used by the producers of the award winning film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” to try to interpret and present the legend of Robin Hood in a way that is relevant and interesting to a modern audience. I will deal with: how the 12th Century was created, the Actors Performance, How Sympathy is created, the order of events, the use of suspense, the use of cameras to create special effects, the use of sound, use of flashback and I shall also give a personal view on the effect that the film had on me.
The film has been modified from the traditional tales of Robin Hood to suit a modern audience. The film starts in the less than traditional setting of a Turkish Jail in the late 12th Century. Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) has been captured whilst on the crusades. The scene is frantic and dark. People are shouting. Robin escapes. While he is escaping, he tries to free other people from the jail. He managers to free a Moor named Azeem (Morgan Freeman). We see them running clear of the jail.
The next scene is in a boat. Both Robin and Azeem have arrived at the South Coast of England. Azeem vows to repay Robin for saving his life in the Turkish jail. When Robin arrives back on British soil, he kisses the ground. They begin walking back to Locksley Castle. On the way back they are intercepted by some of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men. One is the Sheriff’s cousin, Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott). A fight breaks out and but Robin is victorious.
When Robin arrives in Nottingham at Locksley Castle, he finds out his father has been murdered by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) for worshiping the devil. It is at
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this point when we meet the blinded servant, Duncan (Walter Sparrow)
We then see a few pictures of the inhospitable castle, Nottingham Castle. Rats have been included as they are dirty. The film producers have also made the setting very dark. This makes the audience realise that the Castle homes the evil character of the film, the Sheriff of Nottingham.
In the next scene, we see that Robin goes to see his childhood friend, Marion. We see Marion’s servant at first. Robin thinks that she is Marion. She refuses to allow Robin and Azeem on to the home.
‘The Hospitality in this country is as warm as the weather,’ this is a sarcastic quote thus bringing humour into this film. We later see Marion (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) for the first time in this film. Whilst Robin asks for Marion’s help to rid the land of the Sheriffs evil, the home is attacked by the Sheriffs men. Azeem is able to see the attack building up through a telescope that he had made. Although that this is historically incorrect as the telescope was not invented until the 17th Century, this shows that Azeem is more knowledgeable. Azeem acknowledges his intelligence by saying
‘How did your unintelligent kind ever take Jerusalem?’ This quote is referring to the crusades.
Robin and Azeem escape Marion’s home on 2 of Marion’s horses. They flee to the Sherwood Forest. The Sheriff and his men are scared of entering the forest due to the alleged evil spirits that live within. For Robin and Azeem, it is the only place to go.
Whilst in the forest they come to a river. They are told from a voice in a bush that they are not allowed to cross it without a fight. Robin fights against Little John (Nick Brimble) with staffs. This section of the film is slightly funny.
We later see Robin round a fire with the outlaws. Azeem has been outcast from the group. He is described as a ‘savage’
This is a preview of the whole essay
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by one of the men. But Azeem’s new friend, Robin sticks up for him.
‘But no more than you or I,’ this line shows that Robin is not a racist, but in the 12th Century, white people feared black people. Whilst everyone is drinking, Azeem says that his religion does not allow him to drink.
We later see Robin with the outlaws. He reveals his plans to lead the outlaws when asked,
‘Are you planning to join us?’ Robin replied,
‘No, to lead you,’ Robin trains the outlaws how to fight. He teaches them how to make and fire arrows. Robin, who is a supreme marksman, turns the peasants into an army. When this is happening we see down the shaft of the Arrow. This is good camera work. Music also creates a calm and jolly atmosphere.
The Sheriff of Nottingham starts to get annoyed with Robin and his band of outlaws.
‘Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That’s it then, Cancel the kitchen scraps for the lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas,’ This shows how generous the Sheriff was prior to Robin’s interference. He only gives orphans and ill people scraps from the kitchen. It also shows how cruel he is by saying, ‘no more merciful beheadings.’
In the forge, Guy of Gisbourne returns to his cousin, the Sheriff with bad news. The evil sheriff acts nicely but distracts his cousin as he draws a dagger and kills him for failing him. Again the producers and director showing how bad Nottingham is.
Marion goes to see Robin. He is bathing under the waterfalls. The camera focuses on the target as Marion sees Robin. Robin then takes Marion to see the treasure that the outlaws have stolen from the rich that pass through the woods. Marion is dismayed. She is told that it is ‘intended to bribe King Richards’s enemies to plot against him.’
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Later in the film, Robin thinks back to his father. He remembers that the last conversation with his father ended on a negative note. The makers of the film use this to slow down the film thus creating a sombre mood.
After Friar Tuck (Michael McShane) has joined the men after being robbed whilst travelling through the woods, Little Johns wife, Fanny (Soo Druet) goes into labour, Azeem offers to help but Friar Tuck warns against him, still we see evidence of racism in this film but Fanny allows him to do it. After the baby is delivered, Azeem is praised as a ‘great one,’ Friar Tuck then accepts him into his life when he says, ‘Come, my barbarian friend’
Robin asks Marion to get word to her cousin, King Richard of Nottingham’s plot. When asked to do it for the king, Marion says, ‘No, I’ll do it for you,’ this is the first move by Marion in showing her love for Robin.
Back at Nottingham Castle, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Mortianna (Geraldine McEwan) talk about how to get rid of Robin Hood. Mortianna suggests that they use the Celts as hired thugs. Nottingham likes the plan.
Duncan who has been captured by the Sheriff escapes to tell Robin that the letter sent has not reached its intended destination. Unfortunately for Robin, he leads the Sheriff and the hired thugs straight to Robin and the outlaws.
The grotesque Celts invade the village hurling fire and screaming violently. Little John gets separated from his wife in all the commotion and with fire all around them Robin saves the day but falls from a high altitude.
Back at the Castle, Marion has been captured by the Sheriff and he blackmails her with the lives of children in order that the Sheriff can be married into the Royal family. Nottingham tells Marion of Robins death when she says that he is the only one to save the land. He shows her Robins medallion.
The following day in the forest, people search for Robin
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but the great hero is feared dead. At that moment the special effects show robins shadow being projected onto a smoke screen. This is really good effects but can be emotional for some people.
Will Scarlet is jealous of Robin as he also loves Marion. He offers to betray him. We later find out that he is the reason why Robins last words to his father were negative as Will is Robins half brother.
Whilst the villagers burry the dead, Robin says his pride brought them to this, Azeem replies, ‘No, you gave pride to these people.’ Later in the scene, Little John attacks will Scarlet. It is at this moment that Will reveals his true identity and his relationship to Robin.
Robin organises the attack on the Castle. There are not enough men to fight. Fanny agrees to fill a space. This shows equal rights for women in this film. Again this would not have been true of the 12th Century. Friar Tuck takes beer in the castle whilst Azeem pretends to have leprosy. Robin covers himself in dung to make him smell like a poor person. At this point the drums play. This adds to the tension of the moment.
The Sheriff of Nottingham takes Marion to the Chapel. Marion can sense that Robin is alive so she cries for help. She spits in the Sheriffs face. This is a great insult to the Sheriff. Whilst the Sheriff is getting married, he gets undressed. He tries to rape her at the alter as he wants to make children that would have Royal blood in them. Robin enters the room in the nick of time. The Sheriff says ‘Do you mind,’ this provides more comedy in this film as it isn’t something that you would say.
Robin then starts fighting. The fight is ironic as the Sheriff fights with Robin’s father’s sword. Robin passes all the gold to the bishop. The Bishop is accused of steeling it in the first place. Robin then pushes him through the window where the weight of the gold drags him to Earth and kills him.
Nottingham pins Robin in a corner with his sword. As
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Nottingham raises his arms in order to kill Robin, Robin stabs Nottingham in the heart. This is a very dramatic scene . At that moment, Mortianna runs toward Robin. Azeem kills her fulfilling his vow to the Christian.
After all the hype and drama of the previous scene, the final scene show leaves falling from the sky. We see Robin and Marion marry. As they do so, King Richard (Sean Connery) arrives in the Forest. Doves are then released as the start of the theme song begins. The song is Everything I do, I do it for You by Brian Adams.
Kevin Reynolds, the director, created the era that the film was set, this being the 12th Century. He dressed the actors and actresses in Lincoln Green. This material was hard wearing and cheap. It also provided camouflage for anyone hiding in the woods. The director filmed scenes in locations that would make the viewer feel that it was the 12th Century. Locations included
Aysgarth Falls (Yorkshire), Hardrow Falls (Yorkshire), Alnwick Castle, Hulne Park (Northumberland) and Carcassone (France). The music that was chosen for this film also gave the impression that it was the 12th Century but pop music has been included I this film (Everything I Do, I do it for you, (Bryan Adams))
The actors in this film performed very well in my opinion. Despite the American, Kevin Costner playing a traditionally English part, I do not think that this spoils the film. I feel he played well despite criticism from some critics. I think that Alan Rickman who plays the Sheriff of Nottingham was one of the best personalities in the entire film. He played an evil and wicked enemy for Robin Hood but yet was at times light hearted. Michael McShene who played Friar Tuck, allowed the audience to enjoy the film as he played a character who was regularly drunk. The actors in this film are believable.
There were some key incidents in the film. When the little girl approached Azeem and asked,
‘Did God paint you?’
‘Did God paint me? For certain,’
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‘Because Allah loves wondrous varieties.’ This small speech shows how religious people were in the 12th Century and how misunderstanding white people were of black people.
Another key moment in the film is when Fanny (Soo Druet) is in Labour. Azeem is the only person prepared to deliver the baby. Although Friar Tuck warns against him to do it because he is black, Fanny overrules him and allows him to deliver the baby safely. This shows that although some are still weary of Azeem, others have warmed to him and treat him as an equal. But in the 12th Century, this may not have been the case.
In this film, the producers use pauses and silence to build suspense and tension. When the Celts invade the forest and attack the outlawed villagers, Robin falls from a tree and is feared dead. Azeem and Little John search for him. This searching creates suspense. Another moment is when Will
Scarlet is to be beheaded. The audience wonders if Robin Hood will save his half brother.
The camera enables the director to enable the viewer to look at something in more detail or focus on something that is key to the film. The camera also enables the viewer to be able to watch special effects shots. Computers can advance the technology. Cameras are now getting smaller. The director used this technology to film the shot when Robin Hood fires an Arrow into the bull’s eye. The excellent camera work sees down the shaft of the arrow as it leaves Robin’s Bow. This shows what a supreme marksman Robin Hood is. A modern audience would be enjoying this footage as it is not often used.
As previously mentioned, the director can also use the cameras to focus in on a particular area of the set. Unlike a play in a theatre, the audience knows where to look and they can be in with the action in moments. One example of this is where Robin and Marion kiss and the camera focuses in on the kiss. The camera can also pick up facial expressions such as anger.
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You can have an eye filling the screen at the cinema or on the television at home.
To make the film more accessible and more enjoyable for a modern audience, the producers and the director modified the film by adding people and places into the script that aren’t in the traditional tales of Robin Hood and people have been taken out.
The producers of this film, (Gary Barber and Pen Densham) used a mostly traditional storyline and included traditional characters such as Robin Hood, Little John, Will Scarlet, Sheriff of Nottingham, King Richard (Sean Connery) Maid Marion and Friar Tuck. They decided to add Azeem the Moor into the script due to the equal rights for black people laws and traditionally there are no black people in the traditional stories. King John has been totally left out of this film.
They also set the scenes in traditional locations such as Nottingham Castle, Greenwood/Sherwood Forest and Locksley Castle. To make the film appeal to a modern audience the film begins in a Turkish Jail. The Scene is dark and sinister. This
grabs the interests of the audience as death is sensed in this scene. The Cathedral is also a place that has not been included in the traditional stories of Robin Hood, but it appears in the film.
Not only do the producers change settings, they changed the personality of both Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin Hood is known for being a good person who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. In the film he is the same but his past is scarred. Marion can remember that he used to be a troublesome child. In the original tales of Robin Hood, King John was the most evil person. As King John has been left out of the film, the Sheriff of Nottingham takes on this role. Due to it being ‘Dull,’ the Sheriff said that he would cut Robin’s heart out with a spoon.
The script writer doesn’t just change personalities and settings to make the film accessible to a modern audience; he changes the language of some of the characters. Little John is
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quoted as saying ‘codswallop’. This is very modern language as the first recorded use of the word was in 1963 although it is thought to date back to the late 19th Century. Other modern words include ‘twit’ and ‘blimey’.
The producers decide to use flashback when Robin thinks of the last words that were said to his father. This device is used to make the audience feel even more favoured towards Robin because he has no father and the last words were negative.
The producers and the director use sound to create different moods. The beating of drums can create high tension. This convention is used in the film when Robin and the rest of the outlaws enter Nottingham Castle near the end of the film. This builds the audience up so that they know something big s going to happen and what they are doing is dangerous.
But this film was not just plain sailing. Mistakes were made in the script and in the camera work, that does not match up with what is actually possible. The first noticeable mistake is that Robin says that they will be in Nottingham that night. When in Kent and you are walking al the way, this would be impossible. Additionally, they travel via Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland which would lengthen their journey by a factor of three. As mentioned before, the telescope was not invented until the 17th Century, but Azeem used one at Marion’s house. Not forgetting the film was set in the 12th Century. Another Historical mistake is that the Sheriff hired the Celts as ‘thugs’. This is incorrect as the Celts are several centuries out of time. When the camera looks down the shaft of the arrow, the arrow does not spin as arrows must do to fly straight.
On finding out about these errors, I was still not too disappointed by what was overall a thrilling film.
Despite the faults in the film, I really enjoyed it. I think that the film is accessible to a modern audience. After researching the film I found out hat the film was nominated for 12 awards and it won 7 including a BAFTA for the Best
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Supporting Actor (Alan Rickman, Sheriff of Nottingham), and a Grammy for the Best Song written for a motion picture ((Everything I do) I do it for you, Bryan Adams). This shows that film reviewers also liked the film.
I think I liked the film because it portrays the traditional tales of Robin Hood in a modern way. Even with the American actor, Kevin Costner, playing the traditionally English part of Robin Hood, I still think that the film was not spoilt. I feel that Costner’s attitude and his personality suits the role that he plays. I think that this film is a must for anyone who likes love stories, action thrillers and legendary storylines.
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