If I could, I’d give this 3-1/2 stars, not just 3. Colin Firth, Ian Holm, Nicol Williamson, and Donald Pleasance, among others, make this film worth watching. History fans might enjoy the before and after synopses of the characters and the historical figures on whom they were based. Colin Firth fans will definitely appreciate his bed and bath scenes, although his acting abilities take everything up a notch. Still, with the gratuitous nudity, modern feel, and slim production values, this film can’t aspire above B-movie status.
The plot’s a bit convoluted. The story is minimally narrated by Matthieu, the law clerk, yet he figures very little in it. Is the story about his boss–the advocate–or about the town? Maybe it’s too ambitious in scope, what with its contrasting of country life and city life, interjections of witches, superstition, racism against Jews and gypsies, fornicating by the local clergy, secret societies of merchants, the Black Plague, unusual hunting prey, and sodomy. Oh, yes, then there’s the trying of animals in court, a central theme that adds both humor and pathos to the proceedings and proves to be the unraveling of a dark and dirty secret hidden within the town walls. The ending’s twist on the knight in shining armor is a good one.
The film’s worth a viewing for some fine performances and relatively interesting medieval subject matter. Just don’t expect it to be high brow.