Raymond the desired

After waiting patiently two years (my “Pilgrimage” folder in my HD is dated June 2015 – no comment), I have been able to watch the movie. I wonder if the DVD would ever have been released if Tom Holland were not the new Spiderman. Whatever the reason, finally this film has been released, and I’ve enjoyed it very much.

This is my very personal review of the film, full of spoilers.

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The triumphal entry of Raymond de Merville in the film

Pope Innocence III has ordered a cistercian monk (Stanley Webber) to bring to Rome a sacred relic kept in a distant Irish monastery. The pilgrimage of this group of monks will reveal itself full of perils, not only from the gaelic natives, but also from the Norman knights deputied for their protection. The group from the monastery is formed by three friars, a young novice (Tom Holland), and a “converso” (John Bernthal), that arrived to the community five years before in mysterious circumstances.

In Jamie Hannigan’s script there’s small room for surprises. As soon as Raymond de Merville, the Norman knight, appears on screen, we know that the monks’ pilgrimage is condemned to failure. Should this be an opera, when Raymond takes off the helmet in his first scene, the movement would have been accompanied by sombre string and brass notes, as those of Scarpia in Tosca.

Even if we don’t give importance to the fact that when the novice surprises Raymond flying a messenger pigeon he over reacts (the following challenge of the mute in the novice’s defence anticipates their final epic fight), it is obvious that, when Raymond disappears just in time to avoid an ambush in the forest by the same celtic tribe he’s supposed to chase, he’s the deus-ex-machina of the attack. Nevertheless, in my opinion, if the predictability of the plot can be a weakness for many, it is not for me. The mania in recent years for twisted plots and surprises may result in a unintelligible chaos full of gaps and plot holes. Better to tell a “simple” story well than trying to build an Inception-like plot without success.

The author has chosen to leave the backstory of the characters untold, but I think that the relationship between Raymond and the Mute would have deserved more space. It has been hinted with very few but powerful lines, but unfortunately without any previous knowledge of what was the Constantinople siege during the fourth crusade those lines are less effective.

Luckily for me I have still fresh in mind a reading of some months ago, Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, the story of a knight belonging to the king Federico Barbarossa’s retinue. The protagonist witnesses the most important historical facts during is long life, including Constantinople’s siege. The fourth crusade and this siege were characterised by relics’ commerce and its utmost cruelty.

The crusaders pillaged the city, trying to take by the force all the money that they were promised but, as usually happen in medieval wars, not paid. We all know that crusades were a bloody business, as Ridley Scott showed in his film, or for instance, the ghastly episode of the so-called Children’s Crusade. The fourth crusade and Constantinople’s siege added to the usual amount of cruelty the fact that, although the excuse was, as for the previous ones, the retake of Jerusalem, the first result was the taking of the Christian city of Zara and then was decided to destitute the head of the bizyantine empire in Constantinople. It was not a fight against Muslims, but Christians, with the ultimate objective to pillage as much as possible. As Raymond says when referring to the strange tool he will use to torture one of the monks:

“I got this from a priest in Constantinople. A strange man. He used it to persuade the Greeks to tell us where they’ve hidden all of their gold from their churches”

 

There was other method apart from direct robbery to make money: to pillage the relics hold in the city’s churches, or directly to create them. This is a paragraph of Eco’s “Baudolino” (the poor translation is mine)

That’s not a bad idea – said Boidi – you go into cemeteries and you find Saint Paul’s chin, perhaps not the head but Saint John the Baptist’s left arm, and so on, the remains of Saint Agatha, Saint Lawrence, those of the prophets Daniel, Samuel and Isaiah, Saint Helen’s skull, a piece of the Apostle Philip head.

Not only that – said Pevere, eager for what was to come – you only have to dig deeper and you find a piece of Bethlem’s manger, a tiny tiny piece, just not to realise where it comes from.

We will make relics as never seen before – said the Poet – but we’ll also remake those existing already, because prices of those known go up and up.

We know that Raymond was in Constantinople, and that he witnessed probably the commerce and creation of sacred relics. Some as improbable as a flask of Virgin Mary’s milk, the thorns of Christ’s crown, fragments of his cloak, skulls, limbs or organs of many apostles, saints and prophets.

No wonder that when greeting Friar Geraldus he asks him if he has taken his “souvenir”, later he will define the coffer containing the relic a “pretty box”, and when he learns the story of the precious relic (the stone that dashed off Saint Matthias’ brains and that burned afterwards all the pagans that touched it) he only says full of sceptical sarcasm: 

Raymond knows that most probably that is not the very stone that killed the saint, but acknowledges its value: it’s believed that it is. Therefore, when his plan to stole the relic to offer it to king John in order to “blackmail” with it the Pope himself is aborted by the mute, he knows he can replace it with any other rock in Ireland:

Even if we don’t find the relic another stone will do. We’ll put it in a pretty box and people will accept it. Even a king. Or a pope.

but not as long as the group of monks remain alive. Chances are simple: if they give up the stone they live because they can grant for its authenticity; otherwise, they must die.

What is Raymond backstory apart from what we know? Perhaps some years before he joined the crusaders in Venice (the sponsor of the crusade) while his father remained in Ireland to conquer gaelic territory and when he returned, years later, he was “damaged goods”. He got, during that fight, not only scars on his face, but also on his soul. The aim of that sacred venture was reduced to the end to manslaughter, serial rape, and massive killing of Greek Christians and European merchants. When he returned, transformed in a ruthless war machine, he despised his father for his “easy life” and cowardice. But he found was also despised by the men who remained in Ireland and do not recognise him any more. Raymond will revenge of all of them. Fournier, faithful to his father, will fall during the orchestrated ambush of the Celtic warriors. His father, that has become a coward who wants to obtain the salvation of his soul by donating “that rock” to the Pope, in his plans will be defeated and mocked by his own despicable son. No wonder also, being Raymond the archetypal villain that he is, that he is loyal to that wicked king John of the Robin Hood saga (following Guy of Gisborne’s footsteps 😉 ).

The biggest mystery in Pilgrimage is the mute played by John Bernthal. According to friar Ciàran, the herbalist (played wonderfully by John Lynch: the most authentic “tortured person” ever seen on screen), he arrived to the monastery five summers before, in a small boat without food nor water, and has never spoken a word. It is his body that speaks for him: strong, muscular, with a big cross tattooed in his back, that is also full of scars.

Tom Holland, Richard Armitage and John Bernthal. Original screenshot released by producer.

Raymond and his men recognise him. The knight pretends not to be sure where he has seen him, but I think he recognises him on the spot. Perhaps the mute was a veteran of the third crusade, the so-called Crusade of the Kings, and was loyal to Richard Lion Heart. Maybe his differences with Raymond began in Venice, the gathering departing port of the fourth crusade, and the conflict arrived to its peak in Constantinople. Which were the sins that, according to Raymond, the mute had to expiate?

Why was he stranded in the Irish coast, too shocked to utter a word and with his back covered by whip scars? I’d like to think that he opposed in Constantinople not also to Raymond’s loyalty to King John, but also to his methods. One thing was to fight by the side of the Lion Heart against Saladdin’s soldiers, and other to cut merchants’ throats, rape their daughters and destroy Christian churches in Constantinople.

The conflict between the cistercian monk (Stanley Webber) and the novice is more evident in the film. To return to Umberto Eco, Fra Geraldus is a mix of the diehard Bernardo Guy, and the fanatic Jorge the Venerable. Geraldus is a strong believer of the official militant church of those days. To him, there’s only one truth, there’s only one vision of the Church and God. There’s room only for piety, not for pity: the pope wants the relic, and he will have it, no matter what it takes. He will sacrifice without a second thought friar Ciàran and the mute. Or even the novice, when he gets in his way, and eventually himself, dragged to the bottom of the Irish sea by his own fanaticism.

Fra Geraldus’ single-minded fanatic view of religion will open the eyes of the novice. The herbalist, a father-figure for him as William of Baskerville was for Adso (Umberto Eco looms again and again throughout this story), will sacrifice his life for all of them, dying with the name of Christ in his lips. It will take few days for the novice to open his eyes: the sight of Geraldus’ fanaticism destroying also his close-friend, the Mute, is more than he can bear. When the last of the monks die wounded by the arrow of one of Raymond’s men, he realises that the rock that he has carried through the forest and the bog is nothing but a dead weight far away from what Christianity really is: the religion of the honest sacrifice of the herbalist and the simple life in the small monastery by the sea in the far west of the known world, not that of kings, soldiers and the pope of Rome.

Pilgrimage is a highly enjoyable film: the cast is perfect for every role, and all the actors make an incredible work. Richard Armitage plays the perfect villain, cynical and ruthless: he has a goal and he does everything to achieve it. The use he makes of the English language accentuates what Raymond is: an alien. Still no Englishman but no longer a Norman from Rouen, someone that has seen what man can be at his worse and that he accepts and supports it in order to achieve his goal: power and recognition for his family.

John Bernthal plays the soldier with post traumatic disorder with great skill; the mute is not an easy role to play and he does it without following the easy path of an exaggerated histrionics. The untold story of the mute is in John Bernthal’s eyes. And he nails it.

Tom Holland, the novice, is the look of the audience, that faces the cruelty of the medieval ages for the first time: the punishment of poachers that fish in Baron of Merville’s lands, the ambush of the Celts to the monks and the final duel between Sir Raymond and the mute. The violent ambush in the forest is useful to understand the mute as a deathly war machine.

The score is brilliant, and the Irish landscape a protagonist by itself. The big issue of this film is that 90 minutes are definitely too few, and prevent the transformation of this Pilgrimage from enjoyable to epic. I can imagine what this story could have been with double budget and thirty more minutes of footage. But with the same actors; I doubt this story would have been told so well with a different cast.

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Romeo and Juliet – A novel

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Hear, hear! A post about Richard Armitage! I come back on topic after many months. I could not miss to write something about “Romeo & Juliet – A novel”, the last Audible production performed by Mr. Armitage, written by David Hewson. Needless to say that what comes next is full of spoilers and should you prefer not to know anything about this before hearing the audiobook, you’re kindly invited to read this afterwards.

THE PERFORMANCE

Richard Armitage is brilliant. His ability to work in this medium improves with each reading. If someone should ask me “show me how good is this Armitage you admire so much” I would reply “just hear him performing the part of a stammering fifteen-year-old girl in “The Convenient Marriage”. Richard Armitage does not “imitate” voices, the result would be perhaps ridiculous, but he manages to speak with tones of voice that are like brush-strokes of the characters’ psyche, triggering our imagination. I will confess something: although I love radio dramas, I’m not very fond of audio-books. If they’re not performed by Richard Armitage they usually bore me to death, and I assure you that I’ve tried quite a few. For instance, the second hearing of “Macbeth – A novel” lingers in my Audible application and, frankly speaking, the first one required a huge effort of concentration. I have also a multi-read version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula waiting to be finished for more than a year. The only audiobook not narrated by him that I have heard several times is “A new kind of war” performed by Dominic Mafham, whose technique is similar to Richard Armitage’s; but there are no female characters in that novel, the comparison of the performances of both actors cannot be complete.

I have a favourite voice in each of Richard Armitage’s audiobooks: Damerel in “Venetia”, the aunt Betsey Trotwood in “David Copperfield” (by the way I would like very much to know if he had Lesley Manville’s performance in “Mr. Turner” in mind when rehearsing that voice) or Claudius in “Hamlet”. In Romeo & Juliet my favourite one is undoubtedly Mercutio. It reminds me his Mr. Lovelace in BBC’s Radio Drama Clarissa.

Mercutio is a brawler, an ambiguous character, with a dark, self-destructive nature. His “Queen Mab” speech has been beautifully adapted; when he walks out the Capulet’s party, drunk, with Benvolio and Romeo, his drunkard speech about the “beautiful” Anna and the tumble/fumble game of words is impregnated with tenderness and melancholy. “Death will be the death of all of us”, Mercutio said that afternoon. He’s the brimstone that will kindle the tragedy, the angel of death. His curse, “a plague on both your bloody houses”, when he lies dying sounds like a lame excuse.

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Anthony Andrews played Mercutio in BBC’s production (1978) – screencap

 

THE STORY

The novel, as the previous Macbeth and Hamlet written together with A.J.Hartley, is an attempt to “fill in the gaps” of the many unanswered questions that may arise in a three-hour play, for instance, how could Romeo and Juliet fall in love with only a few verses. The narrative rhythm is compelling and gripping. It’s very difficult during the first hearing to decide where to stop or make a pause, as I wanted to know “what will happen next”. I have appreciated the little stories behind each character, as for instance those of Friar Lawrence and his brother Nico, and the description of a real historical character I’ve read of many times, Isabella d’Este. She’s a mix between Alice’s Queen of Hearts and Ben Wishaw’s Richard II in “The Hollow Crown” (monkey included). The voice used by Richard Armitage for Isabella, with a strong Italian accent, completes the picture of how a Renaissance ruler locked in a gilded cage away from the reality lived by their subjects should be like. It is perhaps an extreme caricature of what the real Isabella d’Este was, but, as I have never feel sympathy for her (I’m rather on the side of her wicked sister-in-law) I cannot but enjoy this version.

I expected some changes in the known plot of Shakespeare’s play, therefore I was not shocked when I heard that at the end, Juliet survive. Honestly, I was definitely more outraged by the miraculous survival of Messala and the chessy happy-ending in the recent movie-version of Ben-Hur. Furthermore, Juliet’s decision of starting a new life alone and away from Verona is in harmony with this Juliet.

The main issue with this novel is that, unlike “Hamlet”, it endures very poorly further hearings. In this case, once the curiosity to know “what happens next” is over, issues arise. And an issue with a name and surname: Juliet Capulet.

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Olivia Hussey as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s film version – screencap

Historical novels are very difficult to write, and the alchemy to make a successful one as dark and unfathomable as the philosopher’s stone. Needless to say that “successful” does not equal to me automatically to best seller (I’m the one who abandoned “World Without End” in page 800); this is a post in a personal blog and I’m writing about what I like. I’m rather intolerant, when reading historical or period novels, with characters that are not coherent with the time and place where the novel is set. And this particular Juliet is any century in the future but late XVth. One of the most relevant woman in Italy those years was Caterina Sforza Riario. She was engaged when she was still a child, consummated her marriage as soon as nature allowed it, and by twenty she was already the mother of four children. The duty of a noble woman in that period was to get married and give birth as many heirs as possible; they were bred for that and Caterina did, although she was an intelligent, independent woman. When her husband, Girolamo Riario, died, she ruled her lands with such a competence and belligerence that she was known as “the tigress of Forlì”. She has a place in one of history’s most famous quotations. When Forlì was sieged by an army and they threatened to kill one of her sons, kept as an hostage, if she didn’t surrender the castle, her answer was to climb up the battlements, lift up her skirts, show her sex to the besiegers and shout: “kill him if you want, I have the mold here to make many more”. If I cannot imagine a woman like Caterina saying his father the Duke of Milan, that she would prefer not to marry Girolamo Riario, to me is somewhat difficult to accept a Juliet of Verona saying his father that she would not marry Paris. When she discusses with Friar Lawrence the equality of the marriage vows (I’d prefer not to comment Romeo’s reaction after her exploit), or wonders, after making love with Romeo for the first time, if the deed was not rather too quick, it takes almost an act of faith to accept this without even rising a brow.

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Caterina Sforza – wikipedia

There’s another peculiarity of this novel that is worth discussing: the abundance of words in Italian. This shouldn’t be an issue to me, speaking this language daily (although it is, for a reason that I will explain later on), but I’m afraid that this massive presence of Italian words prevent many readers to understand the text. When I listened to “Hamlet”, I only learned after reading the written version, that what I thought was “the horizon” was in fact “the Øresund”, the Northern Sea. I wonder what the average hearer will understand of the sentence “the piano nobile in the palazzo”. Perhaps those with a more vivid imagination think that one of the entertainments in Capulet’s party was to gather around a luxurious Renaissance musical instrument (never mind if pianos did not exist yet). In my opinion the words in Italian are definitely too many for an audio book (and in the case of the “piano nobile”, not even necessary). In a printed one, foreign names or words in italics may lead the readers, if they feel like, to look what that specific word mean or where a certain place is. Nevertheless in an audio format it may be misleading, when not directly irritating. Some of the Italian words are pronounced with a misplaced accent. I’m not blaming Richard Armitage for it: as someone told him how to pronounce his German lines in Berlin Station (and apparently he was told right), someone had to tell him not only how “gn” sounded like in Italian, but that the accent in “Signoria”, is in the second “i” and not in the “o”. And many other words: antica and not antica, Brancacci and not Brancacci, or Esposito and not Esposito. This last misplaced accent was the one that made me literally jump in the couch, as this recalls to Italian speakers the dubbing of old Laurel and Hardy movies. Definitely not  what David Hewson wanted to recall in anyone hearing his work.

To make Isabella d’Este sister-in-law of Lucrezia Borgia three years before their time is an artistic license, I understand the reason why the autor “anticipated” the event for narrative purposes (although I’d have appreciated a mention about this license in the afterword of the book or his posts about the novel). This “accents issue” is a big editing mistake that would have been extremely easy to avoid, and I cannot understand why in a production like this (we’re talking of Audible, not of three friends recording a fan-fiction with their phone) the foreign words have been dealt with such superficiality. At least here, unlike in “Hamlet”, Medici was the pronounced with the right accent, not with a Laurel-Hardy Medici.

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Lucrezia Borgia – Pinturicchio (Appartamenti Borgia – Vaticano)

Mumble, mumble…

RA at work. Image from Section of Randomness, click for link

Perhaps someone wonders why I have not written anything yet about Mr. Francis Dolarhyde. Frankly speaking, I have nothing to say about him. Well, that’s not absolutely true: Richard Armitage makes an amazing work, his commitment to the role is evident in every single frame, from the movements in his body to the swallowing up of a Blake’s drawing. The problem is that I don’t connect with the story; I have not seen the series from the beginning because it’s not my cup of tea. It’s very well done, there’re many and admired actors working in it, but it’s not my genre.

In the meantime I’ve read the book to understand better Dolarhyde. I bow once more to RA craftsmanship, he’s nailed it. But I don’t get touched by the story, I’m sure that, wouldn’t it be for the series I’ll forget the book in about a week (I definitely prefer Mr. Harris when writing Roman novels as Pompeii or Imperium). When I watch each episode I don’t scream, I don’t jump on my chair and it doesn’t ignite in me the usual FRRA (fan related recreational activities) such as editing, fanvids, etc. etc.

Is it something bad? Not at all. Richard Armitage is always, in my opinion, the best actor of his generation, has made an amazing work and I sincerely hope he will be granted some award for his Francis Dolarhyde. But, to come back to “my romans”

De gustibus non disputandum est

Lucas-John and London beauty

lastI was to write another word after “London”, but google would bring quite a few people devoted to some recreational activities that have very little to do with this blog.

I bought the DVD’s of Spooks season 9… Last year. In December 2014, more precisely. The DVDs lingered for months without even opening the plastic wrap; I preferred to watch other things, hear radio dramas and audiobooks, watch the last Hobbit film twice, read a little… Every time I found a good excuse not to see it. I’ve needed about a month to watch it, but finally I did it.

I am glad that Richard Armitage’s career made an incredible quality jump after this, with the exception of something dealing with water, that I have seen… a complete waste of time, never of money (I never consider it when I purchase original dvds, even in that case). As talking of the faults of Spooks season 9 is something quite easy (can we talk about the bullet that kills Maya? The most improbable trajectory in the history of tv and cinema), let’s focus on the positive ones: Richard Armitage’s interpretation (a typical example of what being above the script means) and London, the guest star of the series.

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Going back to my roots

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Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas – Valencia

Leaving again tomorrow, back to my hometown, for a small holiday. I’ll be back next Tuesday, just in time to take a deep breath and get mad at work on the first of July. My office work have a peak at the beginning of the month and, god knows why, festivities in Italy have a certain tendency to be at the very end or the very beginning of the month. Therefore, relaxed as I can be when I come back, the day after I will be once more exhausted.

It’s funny the use of the word “coming back” when referring to Italy. Even if I live here since 1998 and I’ve married an Italian, Spain will always be “home”. I have never made the application for the double passport, even if I could have an Italian one. I’ve always lived in rented flats, even if I could have bought one (well, owing the money to the bank until the end of my days for a 60 square mtrs apartment); for me home is elsewhere, on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Regarding the recreational activities, more or less fandomly related, after a long British winter I’m facing a hot American summer. Starting with the object of my distRAction, that will attend tonight in LA the Saturn Awards in a Ophelian-Millais mode on, flower crown included, apparently.

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Ophelia, by John Everett Millais. My pic – Tate Britain

I just can imagine how the many and devoted Hannibal fans feel. For me it would be like if after three chapters of the next Rectify season (before you roll your eyes and think oh, no, there she is again, from today on every reference to that show will be accidental as I have opened another blog another just to write about it) Sundance TV would announce that they cancel the show. I guess that if any of the Hannibal fans have a relation that suffered in their time the cancellation of the first Star Trek Classical  series after the third season, that family will be dealing with some really serious trauma.

As a soundtrack for this hot (honestly not very much, for the time being) American summer I can use this song that I have discovered listening to an spotify playlist called the Pulse of Americana. I really like it; Dorothy shouting “why did love put a gun in my hand”, the sound of the harmonica, that guitar… So Thelma & Louise.

Wakey-wakey!

pilgrimage_stillIt takes this picture to make this very-distRActed well-wisher in lethargy jump in the chair. Of all the yet unseen Richard Armitage projects, Pilgrimage is the one that, on the paper, interests me more. I love period and historical dramas, historical novels, and so on. The more far-away in time take me my reveries, the better, and oh, my, this is exactly what I’m talking about. I prefer not to know much about a tv series or film before watching it, I always make my research backwards, as I prefer to have the first watch as free of preconceptions as possible. Pilgrimage is not an exception. I have not made a deep study of the sources and I’ve just followed some twitter accounts of a couple of actors involved. But, even if some of them have been generous with behind the scenes pics, Richard Armitage look as the Norman knight Raymond de Merville was sorrounded by mistery. Until now.

It seems that indeed, size fits with this authentical chainmail I saw in the Museum of London. Now, if you allow me, I go sighing elsewhere.

 

Thank you Guylty!

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Maybe the postman rang twice, but I was not at home. Surprise, letter from Ireland! Step one: find a safe place. My tiny rapsi will always with with me in my bag, together with a very valuable London souvenir
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Knock, knock! Who’s there?
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A “little” John, “tender as dew, impetuous as rain”
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This is the reason why Little John must be always inside my bag, “for safety reasons”. It’s very curious the fact that when some RA memorabilia arrive home, she’s the first to check it out.
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But little John is brave. When there’re mountains to climb, he climbs them!

Thank you so much to Guylty!!!!! I feel a little bit guilty as my strictly related RA posts have decreased. As we say in Spain la procesión va por dentro (the procession goes within). Maybe I’m a little less talkative about, but my admiration and respect for him has not decreased at all, on the contrary, it has grown. I wish that the arrival of my tiny rapsi will be a lucky charm for Richard, Mr. Hartley and Mr. Hewson for the Audible Awards.

 

 

 

 

I’m a time traveller

My edit of 1981 BBC TV series
My edit of the opening title of 1981 BBC TV series

Last weekend my body was in 2015 but my mind was mostly in 1520. What I enjoy the most in my clumsy writing attempts is the time travel for free. I’ve written the epilogue of the famous writing project that probably will never be, but that I think of quite often. I have two “history crushes” and both of them started with a BBC series. My fondness of the Roman Empire started with “I, Claudius” and “The Borgias” ignited my passion for the Borgia family.

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Adolfo Celli played Pope Alexander, and Oliver Cotton Cesare Borgia. Best Roderigo and Cesare Borgia on screen EVER!

Many years have passed since late ’80s; I have read many books about the Borgias, visited exhibitions, places where they actually lived, seen objects that they have touched, letters that they have written. Regarding the books, I recommend you three: one is an historical essay “Lucrezia Borgia” by Maria Bellonci (it’s not an historical fiction but can be read as easily as if it was one), and two novels. O Cesar o nada, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, and Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunnant. The last was a real surprise; after several big disappointments (if I’m in a library and come by a novel with some Borgia in it I buy it) this has been a big discovery. I have finally found my Cesare, the one I’ve always had in mind who says this to Caterina Sforza after taking the city of Forlì:

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To come back to my time travel, after learning of the existence of Tiziano’s Pala Pesaro, the striking similitude between the unknown soldier carrying the Borgia banner and Richard Armitage, a story is taking form in my head. As I’m inconstant and unreliable I have not started to write it seriously. I have ideas about the outline, and how will his story mix with Lucrezia and Cesare’s; I have thought also about the research I’ll have to do, and so on. Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve written the epilogue. I have done it also as a warm-up. If I don’t write in Spanish for a while I need some practising; luckily I have some patient friends that will correct my grammar and other mistakes, as I don’t have any Spanish dictionary in my word processing programs.

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This thing drives me crazy and makes me wonder about re-incarnation.

 Therefore, last weekend I’ve written my four thousand words exercise; in it there’s an special guest, Cesare Borgia’s sword and its scabbard. I’ve seen both of them in two different exhibitions. The sword is kept here in Rome, and I saw it in an exhibition about Julius Caesar, and the scabbard, which is usually in Victoria & Albert Museum, was in loan in another exhibition about the Borgia family. I checked the catalogue of the scabbard but I did not looked for info in the catalogue of the sword, as I remembered its shape quite well.

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In my epilogue, in 1520, he himself (the name of his character is John, couldn’t be otherwise) has the sword, as Cesare gave it to him before his death in Viana (Spain). I didn’t recall if Cesare had taken the sword with him to Spain or where it was kept, but when reading the article about it in the second catalogue, my heart beat hard when I realised that indeed Cesare took the sword with him and that there are no records of the sword’s whereabouts until the XVIIIth century. Therefore, those two details nailed perfectly in my narration. Consider me crazy and/or lunatic, but I felt profoundly happy when I realised that. Most probably that information was stored inside my head and I used it unconsciously, but that moment I felt in heaven, or rather, confirmed me that indeed last weekend I travelled to 1520.

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Detail of Cesare Borgia’s sword as in the catalogue “Giulio Cesare: ‘uomo, l’imprese, il mito”. The inscription reads CUM NUMINE CESARIS OMEN

PS. Richard Armitage has just wrapped “Pilgrimage” with Stanley Webber in the cast, among others. He played, in the European Borgia tv series, the part of Juan Borgia. Mr. Webber had indeed the physique du role and made a decent work. Although the art design of the series was gorgeous (and shot in Cinecittà, I’ve visited the set), the script was what it was. As far as Borgias in the screen are concerned, the most faithful version to reality, even if less glamorous, is still BBC 1981 series.

Stanley Weber as Juan Borgia. Click for source

Sonnet 66

sonnet 66

To be intellectually honest, when declaring which is our favourite Shakespeare sonnet we should have read all of them. I have not. But yesterday I read some of them and liked this one very much. It seemed written for John Proctor.