(Really a Mini-series)
Originally released: 1997
Directed by: Stuart Orme
Starring: Steven Waddington, Ciaràn Hinds, Susan Lynch, Christopher Lee
Based on: the novel of the same name by Sir Walter Scott
After spending about a month reading Ivanhoe (review at PGP), I really wanted to rewatch the 1997 miniseries starring Ciaràn Hinds as Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert. Luckily, I had it on DVD!
If you haven't heard of the story before, Ivanhoe is about Wilfred of Ivanhoe, a knight who returns from the Crusades wanting to marry his true love and win the respect of his father.
Ivanhoe has everything you could possibly want in a story about 12th-century Britain: jousting, Robin Hood, Prince John, Templar knights, Richard the Lionhearted. And the mini-series follows the novel pretty closely (at 5 hours, it should). But while there aren't any major plot differences, the miniseries creators did make some interesting choices in the way they altered the story.
- Love Triangle--Who doesn't enjoy a love triangle? Probably just about everyone these days. In both the book and movie, Ivanhoe's true love since childhood is Rowena. In the novel, Rebecca (Jewish woman who's a doctor) develops a crush on Ivanhoe when they're imprisoned together and Ivanhoe is wounded, but it never goes farther than that, especially on Ivanhoe's end. In the miniseries, on the other hand, the writers give Ivanhoe and Rebecca a lot more scenes together and they definitely develop feelings for one another. Of course nothing can come from it, because Rebecca's Jewish. And even if she wasn't, Ivanhoe would honor his promise to wed Rowena because that's what he does. Ensue bitter-sweet ending.
- Brian de Bois-Guilbert--Probably the biggest alterations between the miniseries the original story are points dealing with Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a Templar knight who's kind of a badass and kidnaps Rebecca. For some reason the miniseries creators decided to make him more of a villain, in that he betrays Richard the Lionhearted and lets Ivanhoe take the blame for it. SIR BRIAN WOULD NEVER DO THAT. For one, he values his honor as a knight more than anything. For two, if he did betray King Richard, he wouldn't lie about it. He'd be like, "Yeah, I made sure he landed in an Austrian prison. And I'll do the same to you if you don't stfu." As much as I love Ciaràn Hinds in this role, it seems like the script plus his performance really wiped out a lot of Sir Brian's personality. Hinds has two modes in this show: scowling while talking in a normal speaking voice, and shouting while stomping about. A lot of Bois-Guilbert's gentler and more honorable personality traits, meanwhile, were transferred to Maurice de Bracy--WHY I DON'T KNOW. I do like that Ivanhoe has to redeem his reputation and hide his identity because he's been wrongly accused of treason (which isn't in the book); I just think making Bois-Guilbert the person who betrayed the king is redic. Not that he isn't still awesome, of course.
- A shout-out for the ladies--There aren't a lot of women in the novel Ivanhoe. Actually, there are two. I do have to give the miniseries creators some props for giving the female characters stronger roles, especially Rowena, who has an awesome scene in the first episode where she tells Brian de Bois-Guilbert off. However, making Rebecca more "modern" only made her more annoying and self-righteous (I wouldn't have thought that was possible); and while it was fun to see Eleanor of Aquitaine travel all the way to England to tell Richard and John off, 1. I don't think she would have done that and 2. I didn't see what the point of that scene was.
Honestly, Ivanhoe is a pretty good miniseries--probably as good as 1995's Pride & Prejudice, although it seems a little dated now. But it's not as good as the book. And trust me, there were times when the book drove me CRAZY, and I'm so glad the filmmakers cut the crazy-making parts out. Still, even though the miniseries actually added a lot of plot to the story (because that's what Ivanhoe needs, more plot!), the book felt more complex because of the richness of the historical detail and the characterizations. The miniseries kind of feels like Ivanhoe Lite now.