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Michael Mann




Location: Oslo
Joined: 30 May 2009

Posts: 17

PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 11:12 am    Post subject: The elusive quest for authenticity.         Reply with quote

Hi,


I am an amateur movie maker (Yes thats my real name. No - Miami Vice was the other dude).

I am currently putting together a short fiction set in 12th century Norway... the last gasp of the pagan (lets call it viking) epoch.

We're shooting 35mm in the fjords, but essentially it's a small indy production. Looks count though, for big screen, so shiny flashy armour for the win.

Long story short: Vikings vs Crusaders visually.

My original misconception, heading into this project, regarding crusaders was that they were essentially "men dressed as tanks". To the point that we have used that style difference as a major point of visual differentiation between the Knight-lead character, and the maille-wearing vikings (more barbaric warriors)


I've gained enough of an education to realise now that particularly around 1097 - 1180 the crusaders were essentially dressed in Norman military fashions: maille and spangenhelms, not far removed from the Vikings themselves.

I understand the "tank" styles really only developed as part of the arms race that was the later crusades, and indeed was then only as a result of changing combat techniques.

This has been a bit of a disappointment, as in many ways I wanted the one character, dressed with stylings of the later crusades (flat great helm etc, flanged mace etc) to go head to head with Viking type characters.

Visually this would have aided a central theme that the Northern tribes had lost the technology race, and 100 years after Stanford bridge were nay on extinct as a result. Simplistic, but it serves a point, and underlines some "noble savage" type plot points..



This begs the question:

How far can one "stretch" the styles of the 12th versus the 13th century when dealing with armour and weaponry. How much of what we know is speculation? I'm hovering around 1138 for the story, some years after the English chapter of the Templars had been established.


For example: Are great helms/( barrel helms) totally out of the question in 1140? Does 40 years have such a huge say in design?
Do we know when the first barrel helm was worn? As opposed to the simply the oldest one that survives? The same with plate greaves and gauntlets? Somebody had to be first - is there much variation in the estimated dates?

I ask only to learn, but have an agenda obviously:

I already feel cheated out of plate armour - but have compromised with blackend flat riveted chainmail for our crusader :-)
To a large extent its about looking markedly different from the Vikings. The crusader has to show the changes in style as a result of the Crusades, essentially as a "new age warrior".

We are also on a budget. Frankly cheap indian made swords and armour are what we will be working with for everything we can.

Suffice to say: I'm tempted to sacrifice a bit of the authenticity, for the sake of building my 12th century "tank", but I don't want to go too far.

Also: this is fiction, but I'm trying to tie it to historical events.


So: authenticity - Your opinions please.
I hope you can give me your views: Where do you draw the line on authenticity?

There are many members in this forum that give a great amount of effort and resources to the quest for the real look.
I would be especially grateful for input from those of you with the early crusades as a point of interest.

Lastly: is styling the film in such a non-authentic way totally unforgivable? What are your opinions of how this is usually done? Sooner or later compromises must be made I think, be it "The new adventures of Hercules" or "Kingdom of Heaven", for example.




Regards,

Mike in Norway.

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michael,

Have a look at this thread that has developed over the last few days http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=16602

This is actually in many ways exactly about this sort of thing.

Regards

Tod

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Daniel Michaelsson




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:07 pm    Post subject: Re: The elusive quest for authenticity.         Reply with quote

Vikings versus Crusaders? Oh God . . . just no. No, seriously, don't. Really, really don't. Stop. Now.

Scandinavian armour during the earliest crusades was not significantly different to other European nations, discounting minor regional differences that you'd encounter in Italy, Germany, England, Spain, Hungary, Poland, anywhere.
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Michael Mann




Location: Oslo
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Leo that was very informative :-)

I'm looking at the photos from that thread and just drooling over the kind of costume budget that those guys must have had :-)


Interesting that a lot of the original comments about "things looking fake" turned out to be for items that were later identified as historically accurate (or close to).

I agree with the point that filmaking is about "reinventing reality" versus reproducing it.. its a fine line though, which apparently was already crossed above for some of the forum members.


I've already done worse though..

For example: The latest prop purchase for the film was a Valiant Armoury Castille sword for the hero:

Apparently the hilt is a type found several hundred years later in Spain (though the blade itself is correct) but essentially it came down to "this is a bloody sexy sword: Perfect for our main character. Got to hide that hex socket though...".

The comment in the above post about the women not wearing hats was particularly interesting: My perspective would have been "Of course we dont want them to wear hats. Look at them: they are babes".

They are meant to be groupies, hanging on the rail like at a rock gig, to show the men as desirable "rock star" types. Hats just aren't sexy, and would not only require further effort to manufacture, but also destroy an effect of the shot: guys showing off in front of hot girls.

I guess it comes down to eye candy: Simple visualisations that can lend the story an "easy win" (Sexy girl instead of hatted matronly spectator) will win out over authenticity every time.

Im still feeling guilty about the sword.. but I won't lose sleep :-)

Cheers,

m

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Mann wrote:
Interesting that a lot of the original comments about "things looking fake" turned out to be for items that were later identified as historically accurate (or close to).


Please note that they're not historically accurate. They were based on things that were historically accurate. Many of the things are from a period and/or region very wrong for the Tudors series and many, many others were created very wrong: terrible proportions, materials, shapes, etc.

So, still, these items "look fake" because they're wrong.

For me, that's not a problem as I realize the show is a vehicle for entertainment, not a historical documentary.

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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr Mann- a couple of points that may or may not be to the point.ha ha.First, by the earily 1100's,most Viking peoples had converted to christianity, and went on crusade by sea. Secondly, well-cared for arms and armour lasted a long time, and among the Vikings and Normans were often passed on.This means that a coat of maille or a sword made in 1000 could still be in use in the 1100's suitably cared for and refurbished. Mr Oakshott commented on this in his books as it was one of his pet pieevs about how swords, etc were dated.Your only problem that I see is going to be the helm.I think the transitional helm a flat topped helm with a face mask was used by this time, but not the barrel helm.I will check again
Ja68ms
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Michael Mann




Location: Oslo
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Vikings versus Crusaders? Oh God . . . just no. No, seriously, don't. Really, really don't. Stop. Now.


I'll giggle along with your sceptisism. Doesnt it sound awesome! It just needs ninjas Cool

Arrow
Interestingly, given the presence of the Varengian guard in Constantinople as the Royal bodyguard in 1097, at the time that the 4 prince armies arrived at the gates of the city, on their way to the holy land, as well as the fact that the first king to join the crusade was Sigurd the first of Norway (most definitely your blood thirsty Viking type) in 1107, I would say that History gives evidence that Vikings were even among the first crusaders.

Remember also that the Germanic crusades ( hundreds of years north of our story sadly) were exactly what you describe a match of the Northern Germanic tribes (of definitive "Viking" decent) versus Crusader-type warriors. Great helms and all.

Please try not to consider this a "Batman vs Superman" contest: The Templar represents a new way of poverty and ideology at the expense of his humanity, and, and the vikings an older dying way, representing our primal natures.
Symbolically it suits the purpose very well and IS historically justifiable.

Besides. I'm in Norway. I have fjords.





Quote:
Please note that they're not historically accurate. They were based on things that were historically accurate. Many of the things are from a period and/or region very wrong for the Tudors series and many, many others were created very wrong: terrible proportions, materials, shapes, etc. So, still, these items "look fake" because they're wrong..


I see your point. Can I ask how far you can take the "based on" part before integrity is lost? This is the part that really concerns me. If I stick to integrity, my props budget jsut went up 500%.

What can be forgiven as a "variation on a style"? versus what needs to historically match armour elements?

Another example: Our Knight character is not on horse, so will fight primarily with mace and sword.
Is a flanged mace forgivable in 1138? Can he have appropriated items from the Holylands as war trophys, lending his armament a less norman apperance (I am very concerned about distinguishing him from the maille-clad vikings visually).


Thanks for your time!

Mike.

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Dan Dickinson
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Mann wrote:

I've already done worse though..

For example: The latest prop purchase for the film was a Valiant Armoury Castille sword for the hero:

Apparently the hilt is a type found several hundred years later in Spain (though the blade itself is correct) but essentially it came down to "this is a bloody sexy sword: Perfect for our main character. Got to hide that hex socket though...".



Well actually you're fine on the Castile. While it is true that the inspiration is dated a 100+ yrs later than your 1140 time period, due to the changes that CF/Valiant made from the original, you're just fine. A Type I pommel with style 6 guard and type X blade (as opposed to the original's XII) would be perfectly feasible for the time period. The main problems are the rivets on the suspension and yes the hex nut Wink Other than that it's much much better than many "historical" movies' hero swords. However the premise etc....may be another story Wink
Hope this helps,
Dan
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 12:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You might consider using a transitional great helm for your crusader, along the lines of what James mentioned above. See this thread - http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...nal+helmet - you can even buy one from Museum Replicas (and other places). These helmets were first used around 1190, so you will still be 50 years out of date. Still, with this piece you will give the idea of transition from one style to a newer one.

Last edited by Roger Hooper on Sat 30 May, 2009 1:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 1:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael,

What people are telling you is that there were no crusades in Norway - the religious conversion happened internally and via missionaries. Sure there were earlier clashes between pagans and Christians (some of them quite famous), but these do not qualify as crusades. They were between different northmen trying to control the region.

If you are looking for an historically based crusade (loosely defined) in a Scandanavian setting, you might set your film within the Christian Swedish or Danish incursions into pagan Finland and the smaller Baltic state areas respectively. These came later in history (I forget the exact dates) so you might get away with putting some plate on the Scandanavians and making the Fins look like more primitive vikings (they partook in naval raids just like Norse vikings so this is essentially what they were).

A popular book on this topic is 'The Northern Crusades' (I forget the author). As I recall much of that book talked about the activities of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia/Lithuania, but I think he also talks about the 'crusades' into Finland.

Otherwise, the scenario you are talking about is pure fantasy.

-JD
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Michael Mann




Location: Oslo
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 1:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Please do check up on the helm James that would be great.

Your point about the conversion of Norway to Christianity is very valid: Its actually another plot within the story, Religion as empire, which the Knight will also represent.

The convert-or-die process in Norway is all by itself a remarkable tale, but we are choosing to believe ( dramatic license) that pagan pockets of resistance survived in the northern parts of the country until the end of the 12th. This lends a rather dramatic "last mohican" status to the protagonists, and a sense of mortality to their story.
Also, historically defensible we think :-)

Thanks

m

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Michael Mann




Location: Oslo
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 1:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Michael,

What people are telling you is that there were no crusades in Norway - the religious conversion happened internally and via missionaries. Sure there were earlier clashes between pagans and Christians (some of them quite famous), but these do not qualify as crusades. They were between different northmen trying to control the region.


Hi J.D.

I wont disagree :-)I think perhaps I was a bit glib in my initial description:
Quote:
Long story short: Vikings versus Crusaders[
.

My apologies for that: I didn't want to burdern the forum members with unnecassary details, but I guess theres no point making a long story short on a forum dedicated to the details.. and that's certainly no bad thing.

The protagonist in our story is an-ex crusader, He comes to Norway in 1138 looking for an old survivor from the Kings crusade in 1107 (perhaps an ex-Varengian guard). That survivor has headed North beyond the borders of Norway in a self imposed exile. The hunt for him, and the background to that exile, are what drive the main character.

In short; our hero is a Templar prototype, wandering through a land of witchcraft and sorcery, and the ghosts of an old religion. He is going to meet vikings.


I understand your incredulity :-) lets just say that if my job is to suspend disbelief - you guys are a brilliant resource to achieve that.

Please fire away with all comments and critisisms :-)

Cheers,

m.

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm glad you know all that. We suffer enough from Hollywood without having the Norwegians misrepresent their own history!

So he's a bitter ex-crusader with pagan issues, searching out the dark spot in his own soul for which he blames the failure of his crusade in the holy land? Sounds kind of like John Wayne in 'The Searchers'.
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 6:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael,

I don't mean this as confrontational so please don't take it that way, as I mean this as a sincere opinion, but you're wasting your time.

You're obviously not interested in doing a production from an aspect of hi-fidelity accuracy. The fact that you've acknowledged inaccuracies, then made excuses why they exist points to this fact. Since you're going to do what you want anyway, in the end you're wasting your time by asking these questions and also wasting the time of these forumites are taking to respond. Wink

In the end I think you should just do what you want and make a production with the design elements you desire. Just make it look cool and visually exciting. Afterall, you aren't making a documentary are you?
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 8:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Michael,

I don't mean this as confrontational so please don't take it that way, as I mean this as a sincere opinion, but you're wasting your time.

You're obviously not interested in doing a production from an aspect of hi-fidelity accuracy. The fact that you've acknowledged inaccuracies, then made excuses why they exist points to this fact. Since you're going to do what you want anyway, in the end you're wasting your time by asking these questions and also wasting the time of these forumites are taking to respond. Wink

In the end I think you should just do what you want and make a production with the design elements you desire. Just make it look cool and visually exciting. Afterall, you aren't making a documentary are you?


I think that is a good point, but there is a big diference between impossible and unlikely/rare. If there were vikings using katana because "kats are hella awsome" would be ridiculouse. A guy in the backwoods of Zealand (or whereever) in 1137 wearing maille more like mid early 11th C stuff, because he has strong family ties is unusual, but not inately silly. Same thing goes for a crusader in the north. Leading a mini crusade that there is no record off is just stupid, but "a guy who was involved in a crusade, and uses the equipment he got used to, and is visiting for a few months on private bussines" is unlikely, but not impossible.
just my two cents
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2009 12:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Patrick Kelly wrote

Michael,

I don't mean this as confrontational so please don't take it that way, as I mean this as a sincere opinion, but you're wasting your time.

You're obviously not interested in doing a production from an aspect of hi-fidelity accuracy. The fact that you've acknowledged inaccuracies, then made excuses why they exist points to this fact. Since you're going to do what you want anyway, in the end you're wasting your time by asking these questions and also wasting the time of these forumites are taking to respond.

In the end I think you should just do what you want and make a production with the design elements you desire. Just make it look cool and visually exciting. Afterall, you aren't making a documentary are you?


I think this is a little unfair, Michael may not be interested in in getting and keeping every detail right and nor does he have the budget to do so and and nor should he. If Michael were to make a film that was wholly accurate to the past and to forego the liberties he has taken to provide a compelling tale he will cleave his potential audience right down and never stand a chance of recovering his money - this ultimately becomes a waste of time.

However if by integrating the opinions of the forumites, the end result is better historically than it would otherwise be is that not a good thing?

I would love a film maker to make for all of us though the 'Holy Grail' of a film that is historically perfect with a compelling yarn; though don't forget my perfect is different to yours. I was at a fair one day and was given quite a telling off by some lady I did not know because the cut of my hose was incorrect, which it quite possibly was. The lady however was wearing a large amount of chrome tan leather reinforced with brass tubular rivets; but I am sure the pattern of her bodice was correct. People have different opinions about things and they care different amounts about them.

Tod

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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2009 2:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wasn't my wife was it, Tod? She likes telling people off about their hose! Big Grin
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Michael Mann




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2009 2:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can say that when I first started with this project I really didn't know the differences, that we are now describing, to any great degree.

I had the historic timeline down quite well in words (and did my homework on this), along with general visual clues:
Templar. Varengian. sword, armour etc.

I guess it was entirely due to my misconceptions of what a crusader was, what a viking was, that I really didnt try to seek out the details behind the ideas...

Then I started researching: I simply wanted to know what these guys would all be wearing, to setup the props budget, and here we are.


The film is called Ghosts in the Vé

Vé being the old ritual places of pagan worship, and the ghosts reference to the covert practise of that worship, under fear of Christain reprisals following the en-masse forced conversion of the country.

The story is set in Norway: for obvious reasons, and location is everything :-)
The Pagan era is the most interesting part of Norwegian history,. so there we are.



Our protagonist must be an outsider, and have the initial "outsider" view that this is an inferior species of people. A templar suited this view quite well, with the humilty/arrogance of a new rising power. People can relate.

For the record with a bigger budget we could have set the same story in Modern Afghanistan, The Wilds West 200 years ago, 20th Century South Africa, or 500 years in the future on a dying planet. Its a very common theme that traverses our history, and imagination.

The fact we get to do it wearing armour and waving swords is just extra gravy :-)

Investigating history has more or less brought me to this forum: Quite aside from simply dressing people up, being able to say "this is auithentic" is a very valuable thing: it can lend a richness and truth-telling to the story, but it is still quite secondary to the story I must admit: I don't want to ignore anything - on the contrary: as one delves into history there is an increasing obligation to tell it truthfully. Its just I'm very afraid that it gets in the way.

If it is "unlikely" that a templar" ever travelled to Norway: how can the story be told? At what point does "unlikely" become "impossible"?

Im trying to rule out the impossibilities by visiting this forum and learning from you all.
I can live with "unlikely"s though :-)


Thanks for your comments so far: Its been very interesting - and all valuable.


If any of you guys are in Oslo there a medieval festival taking place on the weekend 20th June:

http://www.oslomiddelalderfestival.org

Perhaps we can discuss this over a flagon?

Cheers,

m

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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2009 5:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry, my liking for brevity (or short attention span, pick one) means that I don't always make myself as clear as I should. When I said the templar was "unlikely" I meant in the sense that the majority never left for northern climes, but although international travel was a bit more arduous in those days, folks did travel, so it is certainly reasonable to say that your protagonist did (by which I mean, I was sticking up for the idea, not knocking it down). It is unlikely that an American defected to the U.S.S.R. during the cold war, but would have bean feasable (and would make for an interesting setup to a film)
I actually like the "pitch" and would enjoy the movie (if it is handled well) by the sounds of it.
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2009 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael, just for fun, watch Bergman's, Seventh Seal, about a crusader's return to his Swedish home and his search for some evidence of God's presence. There are inaccuracies in costume, weapons, and armor, but apart form other intensely interesting things about this movie, there is an attempt to create a medieval world view uninfluenced by the modern "right way of looking at things." No pagans, but a lot of unhappy Christians.

This film was made more than 50 years ago, and younger forumites may not be familiar with it. See it



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