Posts Tagged ‘reviews


Anachronism in A Knight’s Tale

Heath Leder's suit in A Knight's Tale

Heath Ledger's suit in A Knight's Tale

I was watching the film A Knight’s Tale (starring Heath Ledger, Rhys Ifans Paul Bettany and Rufus Sewell; directed by Brian Helgeland) during a class on history and film at my university. It’s set in the Middle Ages and features jousting to a Queen beat, an MCing Chaucer and Heath Ledger dancing to David Bowie at a medieval banquet in a green dinner jacket made from a tent. Historically accurate it ain’t.

Though that’s the point, as far as I can see. It’s also one which many people seem to have overlooked, based on the critical reaction to it. It’s only scoring 58% fresh over on RottenTomatoes, with most of the negative reviews mentioning the anachronistic elements of Helgeland’s film.

It seems to me that the charge most likely to be levelled against A Knight’s Tale‘s anachronistic elements is that they represent the film dumbing down; that they’re about Hollywood selling realism down the stream in favour of a more commercial film.

However, I think Helgeland’s doing something much cleverer with his anachronisms. He’s showing tournaments as popular and raucous spectacles, and he uses the Queen soundtrack and the Mexican wave as cultural shorthand for us to understand the spirit of the occasion. They didn’t sing along to Queen, but they may well have had similar rituals which were conducted in a similar fashion. Helgeland’s purpose is to show the meaning behind the events, rather than fixating on selling the audience an archaic version of events themselves.

Take Ledger’s dinner suit. When we see it, we understand he’s gone to an effort and dressed up smartly. If we’d seen him in some random tunic we don’t have the cultural context to understand that what he’s wearing is smart. To modern audiences, a tunic is a tunic is a tunic.

To fixate on the anachronisms is to miss their point: they’re to aid us in understanding medieval society by using our own culture analogously — the tale is placed centre stage.


A gay nightmare simulator

Sometimes people make games. Sometimes those are ‘erotic’ games. Some people play them having received a request from a friend. Sometimes they are bad. Sometimes people review those games and post them on a blog.

screenshot of gunther

The first and most frightening man I meet. I call him Gunther.

I’m going to choose German as the language I use that site in, to make the games feel dirtier. The first problem I have run into is that I am being asked a question in German by a Picasso painting.

There are three options for my response. One of them has the number 75 in it. I will assume that this is a boast about the length of my penis. I have selected this option.

Apparently this was an invalid choice. The Picasso figure has stepped away to reveal he is tragically deformed and has had his torso replaced with an upside down triangle painted salmon pink. The two other options remain. I can ask him something “ahm poppen?” which is either about poppers or carbonated beverages, or I can say something longer. Another decision I make based on my guesses about the language.
gunther and his rainbow ceilingThis was also apparently invalid. I now notice that if you squint his head and neck resemble an impressionistic penis. I resort to the third option, and tell him something about funf stern bekommen. This was the correct answer, and he straightens to face me. We have been joined by a blond man who studiously avoids presenting me with anything other than his profile. I decide at this point that the man in the salmon sweater is called Gunther, and that the blond man with the square jaw and pointed nose is Frederik.

Faced with another three choices, I opt this time to abandon my attempts to interpret the words and simply choose the one with an exclamation mark on the basis that it might express arousal. Frederik gets right in my face, but continues to present me with only one side of his face. He looks tired; even from this view I can see a bag under his eye. I find him more attractive than Gunther because blonds have more fun, so I choose to say the sentence containing the phrase “ich will Party”.

He backs off and Gunther butts in, his eyebrow raised in an expression of either contempt or surprise. My attempt at divining the meaning of what Gunther says results in me believing he is telling me that Dan has got lost. I cannot begin to understand either conversational option I am presented with at this point. There are two, one with a yellow background and one with a green. Of the two, I prefer the colour yellow. “Wir kahn ich dir das Geld geben?”, I ask sincerely.

Frederik vanishes from view and Gunther moves to the right, leaving him standing right in front of me. Simultaneously, two arrows appear. Arrow 1 points at a wire leading from an electrical junction box behind Gunther, whilst arrow 2 points at Gunther’s shoulder. At this point I realise Gunther has painted the ceiling of his hall with the LGBT rainblow flag which strikes me as an odd thing for a person to do.

I read the text and see the word “Maustaste” several times. I assume I am being asked about mustaches, and begin to wonder how the arrows correlate to the answer to the question of whether I like mustaches. Arrow 1 seems most likely to represent “no” as the wires from an electrical box will be dangerous, and mustaches are dangerous to the chances of you not looking like a phenomenal tool. However at this point I realise the interface has performed a clever trick, and what I am actually required to do is to pay Gunther using a coin stored at the top of my screen. I am distressed as I preferred Frederik and I assume I am paying to have sex with him, but the game offers me no choice and I give Gunther the money, feeling defeated.

Gunther seems to have left me and I wander, baffled, down a corridor into a bar. Have I misunderstood everything that has happened so far? I begin to doubt the fundementals of my own existence. As I enter the heads of the patrons turn. The bar tender has his top off and appears to be making the universal “wanker” gesture with his hand. I take an instant dislike to him.

There is a businessman with a red nose sat at the bar, either drunk or suffering from poor circulation. He surveys me unfavourably. A discarded motorcycle helmet sits between him and the next customer, a man with a receding hairline wearing biker leathers and holding a pint of beer with such a head of foam that it is almost as high as the glass again. Off to the side, past the bar, is a room labelled ‘DARKROOM’. I pause momentarily to consider why a German bar has that sign in English, but as I am dissatisfied with my options at the bar I head towards it.
As I near the door, two men appear from nowhere, one of whom is playing pinball. His friend is wearing a bomber jacket open to reveal his chest, and a pair of red braces hang from his waist. He offers in his outstretched arm an electrical shaver. They have a conversation and bizarrely I am invited to participate. I select a phrase at random, and the two men resume their previous activities without speaking another word to me. I must have said the wrong thing.

The ‘DARKROOM’ is not especially dark. Two men wearing leather pants and with no tops on watch pixellated erotica on a small television. Signs have been spray painted onto the walls. One resembles a steaming turd and the doorway it is above has an images of tickets.

I do not wish to pay to see human waste, so I avoid this door. Another room leads to the “sling room” which is in the basement, but I have no need for a sling as I am uninjured. This leaves me with the last doorway. I know I am uninterested in what I have seen behind me, so I press on to this room.

The room is completely pitch black. Men moan every now and again, and conversations in German fill the screen. I retreat, scared and confused.  This is the worst evening of my life. I am not into this.

I try to leave, hurrying back through the bar to the exit, but Gunther bars the way. He says something I don’t fully understand, but the sentiment is still clear: I am trapped. I return to the bar, intent on summoning help. This time I go more fully into the room. Over here there is a couple on a sofa, one of whom is wearing an army uniform. Near the bar an attractive blond boy flirts with another comparative youngster who is wearing a fishnet tank top. At the rear of the bar a man with prominent chest hair surveys me with interest.

The army man will surely save me. I approach the couple and say something random in German. Without stopping kissing, one of them tells me he is Frank and he is 27. He asks me a question but ignores my answer so I approach the blond near the bar. As I near him his trousers fall and he looks at me, then puts his pants back on and turns away.


I feel trapped and giddy, I need air. I want to escape this place.

I barge past the man with prominent chest hair, but find myself in the toilets. Grime is everywhere. There is moaning coming from the cubicle and the noise of something dripping. I agree to maintain the firm idea that it is dripping water, although at this point I would be surprised by such an obvious and innocous event.

I stagger back into the bar. Nothing is right about this place, everything is unpleasant and feverish. The music loops again, the same twenty seconds repeated forever, a symphony of bad club music played in the key of despair. Nobody I talk to wants to listen to what I have to say. The punk in the fishnet tank top drops his pants as I approach, then looks annoyed and rebukes me before resuming his flirtation with the other trouser-dropping patron.

My protestations to the bar tender are met with an interruption by the businessman with the red nose. The biker at the bar talks to me and I reply with German whose meaning I cannot possibly begin to understand. He gives me his business card. I don’t think he was even listening.

This is my lowest point. I have nothing more to lose. I am trapped in a hedonistic nightmare, a satire of dating. Nobody cares about me, nobody listens.

I approach the man at the back with chest hair, and stand so close to him his nipple and armpit fills my vision. Again I try to explain in German that I am trapped, that I need to escape. I want to tell him about Gunther and about the men at the bar who drop their trousers; I want to tell him I am afraid and alone. I don’t know what it is he thinks I have said, but at the end of our brief two-sentence conversation he begins to masturbate under his trousers.

This is the end. I have nowhere more to go, nothing more to say, nobody new to meet. I will never leave this place. I realise now that perhaps all the other people are stuck here too, perhaps one day I too will become like them; an unthinking and uncaring patron of this place. My purpose will be to confuse and demoralise new ‘guests’, to make them like us: empty, broken human beings. I have lost and the game has won. I drop my pants and close the window.

July 2018
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