Golden Oldie: A Knight's Tale (2001)

In this week's Golden Oldie, our editor, James Sproston, talks us through his favourite film, A Knight's Tale

James Sproston
27th February 2018
Image: YouTube

Though it went under the radar when it was released, no film can rival A Knight’s Tale for the ‘Golden Oldie’ title. There’s no doubt that there’s some substantial flaws in this film, but ever since I was given it on DVD for my eighth birthday, I’ve appreciated it for less conventional reasons.

Simply put, it’s a film about jousting. The appeal may be initially disguised in steel armour, but it’s the same basic structure that of any sport film: an initially lucky underdog gets their chance, defies all expectations, and either wins in the big finale or gives it a damn good crack. Think Goal! on horseback with a huge stick.

Coupled with that simple plot is a series of clichéd and anachronistic moments and lines, which in most films would often lead to frustration or even contempt, but in A Knight’s Tale it leads to wholesome endearment.

During the first scene, the tone of the film is clearly set. Mark Addy, portraying Mark Addy, crouches over the corpse of his very recently deceased Lord, who died whilst expelling the hamster. Addy then proceeds to explain the situation by saying “the spark of his life is smothered in shite” and “his spirit is gone but his stench remains”.

We then turn to Heath Ledger, playing the protagonist William Thatcher, who gets his chance at hitting the big time when his Lord shites himself to death. He’s plucky, optimistic and handsome, which is everything you can ask for from a man destined to climb the ladder to jousting superstardom.

His love interest is called Jocelyn, a frankly unworthy partner for our hero, who wears wildly anachronistic clothing, and doesn’t seem to care about jousting at all. She’s constantly overrated by all of the film’s characters, besides Kate the Blacksmith, who in contrast is consistently undervalued by the team, having had to work hard just to be considered “one of the lads”.

Kate not only forges Heath a new suit of armour for free after he was comically rejected by three other blacksmiths, who collectively put in three of the worst acting performances of the 21st century, but she taught him to dance as well. Class act.

However, all of these characters needed something to tie them all together, and that thing was Geoffrey Chaucer. Providing quick wit, several speeches equally touching and comical, and a constant narrative throughout, Paul Bettany’s portrayal of Chaucer makes A Knight’s Tale not only an immensely enjoyable experience, but a wholly worthwhile watch for anyone.

I can’t rave enough about this film; the action, the acting and the banter all combine to make it the most watchable film of all time. It’s a classic that can be whipped out at any occasion, be it romantic, family-friendly, or a drinking game, A Knight’s Tale never disappoints.

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