Thursday, July 19, 2007

Robin and Marion

Many, many years ago two of my friends watched Robin and Marion on VHS (yes, it was that long ago). Both of them love classic movies and their tastes are quite similar. That having been said, one of them loved the movie. The other, a fan of the old swashbuckler movies made by the likes of Errol Flynn, hated it. Quite simply, Robin and Marion is not your standard Robin Hood movie.

Released in 1976, Robin and Marion was directed by Richard Lester during his swashbuckler phase (in the Seventies he directed The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers and The Royal Flash as well). The movie begins just as Robin Hood (played by Sean Connery) and Little John (Nicol Williams) return from the Crusades with Richard I (Richard Harris). While Robin was gone, Marion (Audrey Hepburn) became a nun and rose to the position of abbess of her abbey. The film's primary focus is their reunion and the renewal of their romance. Robin and Marion is hardly a simple romance movie. Not only does it contain the prerequisite action scenes, but it is different from any other movie focusing on the outlaw from Sherwood Forrest. Although still a force to be dealt with, Robin is older and not nearly as spry as he once was. Contrary to viewing Robin as an outlaw and enemy to be despatched, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw) sees him as a respected adversary, even if he still wants him dead. Richard Lionheart is hardly the epitome of chivalry. It is revealed that he has killed women and children without mercy. Only King John, played by Ian Holm, appears as he usually does in the Robin Hood mythos.

Indeed, Robin still bears the scars, both physical and psychological, of the Crusades. It is clear from his conversations with Marion that for Robin the Crusades were not some glorious "holy" war to free Christians under Muslim rule and liberating Jerusalem, nor were they some grand adventure. Instead, they were simply often meaningless slaughter. King John, in a dispute with Pope Innocent III, over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, called important church figures to him. Marion has no intention of obeying the King's order and has decided to resist in protest. Made shortly after both the end of the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal in the United States, and Edward Heath's term as Prime Minister in the United Kingdom, Robin and Marion reflects attitudes towards the Vietnam War and the increasing distrust of government on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of course, the primary reason to watch Robin and Marion are the performances of Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. The two are wholly convincing in their roles, alternately melancholic and romantic, remembering better days and hoping for a better future. Robin and Marion is ultimately about love lost and found again.

Robin and Marion is definitely not for every Robin Hood fan. If one expects his or her Robin Hood movies to be filled with spectacular sword battles, grand escapes, and impossible feats of archery, then this is not the movie for him or her. On the other hand, if one enjoys a character study of two of the most legendary characters in English literature in their later years, then he or she will definitely enjoy this movie. If anything else, the performances of Connery and Hepburn make it worth a look.

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