Sunday, 14 April 2013

Labyrinth (3 Stars)

I haven't read Kate Mosse's novel, on which this film is based, but the trailers I saw impressed me so much that I had to watch it. The structure of the film is interesting in itself. It's actually two stories, one that takes place in 1209, the other in 2011. No, not time travel. The only connection is that the main character in the 21st Century story has visions of things that happened 800 years previously.

In South France in the 13th Century there was a Christian sect called the Cathars. In contrast to traditional Christianity they believed in reincarnation. Unlike other Christian groups they were tolerant, accepting the views of others, but the Catholic Church did not return the favour. French troups are sent in the name of the Holy Inquisition to wipe out those they consider to be heretics. The central character is Alais, the king's daughter. She is a Catholic, but most of those around her are Cathars. When the Inquisitors arrive her father reveals that he is the guardian of a secret book that reveals the location of the Holy Grail. This is one of three books, and though the three guardians do not know one another's identity they are all in the same town, and all endangered by the upcoming attack.

In the 21st Century the Cathars have long been destroyed, but a new cult has emerged, the Noblesso. It is a small group of people who have dedicated their lives to finding the three books, thought to be buried somewhere in the ruins of the castle. Alice Tanner is an archaeologist digging on the site, but unknown to her she is also a direct descendant of Alais. There is a psychic link between her and Alais across the centuries.

The film's structure is also its weakness. The two stories are told side by side, jumping from the past to the present. It's difficult to relate to any of the characters. I'm sure the novel itself is good, based on its commercial success, but the characters in the film seem two-dimensional. The only exception is Claudia Gerini, who plays the leader of the Noblesso. I'd never heard of her before, but she's evidently a top Italian actress. She stands above all the others. I'm curious to see other films she's appeared in. Can anyone tell me more about her, please?

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