Skip to content

Kingdom of Heaven

September 17, 2015

KOHThe plot concerns the third of eight crusades to the Holy Lands performed in the years roughly between 1095 and 1291 A.D. The opening titles tell us that the year is exactly 1184 and that “Europe is in a state of repression and poverty.” The observant viewer can discern this even without the helpful description because everything European is dirty, shabby, and ragged. This includes not just the peasantry, but also the blasphemous priests and rapacious noblemen who, having plundered the Middle East for gold, frankincense, and myrrh, nonetheless returned looking like they’d been on a three year long drunk.

Themes: faith and violence, religious dialogue/relationship with other faiths, hospitality, discernment and the will of God , honour and shame.

An epilogue states that “nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Kingdom of Heaven remains elusive.”

Godfrey of Ibelin: You are not what you were born, but what you have it in yourself to be.


Balian of Ibelin: [to the people of Jerusalem] It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended. What is Jerusalem? Your holy places lie over the Jewish temple that the Romans pulled down. The Muslim places of worship lie over yours. Which is more holy?
Balian of Ibelin: The wall? The Mosque? The Sepulchre? Who has claim? No one has claim.
[raises his voice]
Balian of Ibelin: All have claim!
Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem: That is blasphemy!
Almaric: [to the Patriarch] Be quiet.
Balian of Ibelin: We defend this city, not to protect these stones, but the people living within these walls.


Guy de Lusignan: [approaching a Muslim caravan] This caravan is armed, Reynald.
Reynald: Good. No sport otherwise.
Guy de Lusignan: They’ve seen us. Go after them. The rider is getting away.
Reynald: It’s broad desert. Nothing will come of it, nothing.
Guy de Lusignan: I’d prefer not to be hanged before my wife is queen.
Reynald: Don’t worry. “Who but Reynald”, they’ll say. It’s always me. They’ll believe it in Jerusalem, I assure you. You were at Nazareth, praying.
Guy de Lusignan: You’re a dangerous man, Reynald.
Reynald: If the war’s to be now or later, I would have it now. How long can the leper last?
Templar Master: God wills it. God wills it!
Templars: God wills it!
Reynald: Jerusalem!
[all charge towards the Muslim caravan]

Balian of Ibelin: It is a kingdom of conscience, or nothing.

priest exhorting Crusaders: To kill an infidel, the Pope has said, is not murder; it is the path to Heaven.

Nasir: [to Balian] … and if God does not love you, how could you have done the things you have done?

Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem: Convert to Islam… repent later!
Balian of Ibelin: You’ve taught me a lot about religion, your Eminence.

Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem: The things that we have left undone plague us as death comes. That is why to the dying there is no comfort but the Lord.
King Baldwin IV: Spare me your sermon. Go and prepare your people for the coronation of my nephew.
Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem: Your confession, my lord.
King Baldwin IV: I shall confess to God when I see him… not to you. Now, leave me.

Tiberias: There is a rumour. We must condemn it immediately.
Sybilla: Call it treason. And kill those who whisper it.
Tiberias: The rumour will die if we show the boy as active…
Sybilla: [bursts out] How long before he wears a mask? Will you have one made for him? How did my boy deserve it? Jerusalem is dead, Tiberias. No kingdom is worth my son alive in hell. I will go to hell instead.
[Tiberias steps forth and hugs Sibylla]

Hospitaller: One may stare into the light, until one becomes the light. I’ve done it many times.
Balian of Ibelin: [throws a rock at a bush that catches fire by the spark] There’s your religion. One spark, a creosote bush. There’s your Moses. I did not hear it speak.
Hospitaller: That does not mean that there is no God. Do you love her?
Balian of Ibelin: Yes.
Hospitaller: The heart will mend. Your duty is to the people of the city. I go to pray.
Balian of Ibelin: For what?
Hospitaller: For the strength to endure what is to come.
Balian of Ibelin: And what is to come?
Hospitaller: The reckoning is to come for what was done one hundred years before. The Muslims will never forget. Nor should they.
[the Hospitaler slowly walks away as a second bush several yards from the burning one catches fire. The Hospitaler is nowhere to be seen in the clear and open desert]


Balian of Ibelin: What is Jerusalem worth?
Saladin: Nothing.
[walks away]
Saladin: Everything!

Godfrey of Ibelin: I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle.


Balian of Ibelin: What could a king ask of a man like me?
Godfrey of Ibelin: A better world than has ever been seen. A kingdom of conscience. A kingdom of heaven.

Saracen Messenger: The Sultan asks for his sister’s body, the heads of those responsible and the surrender of Jerusalem.
Guy de Lasagne: Does he?
Saracen Messenger: What is you reply?
Guy de Lasagne: This. [Decapitates the messenger]

Hospitaller: Are you sorry for all your sins?
Godfrey of Ibelin: [looking at Balian, his illegitimate son] For all but one.

Balian of Ibelin: You go with the army?
Hospitaller: My order is with the army.
Balian of Ibelin: You go to certain death.
Hospitaller: All death is certain. I shall tell your father what I’ve seen you become. [rides away]


Balian of Ibelin: What man is a man who does not make the world better.



Nasir: You reap what you sow. You have heard of this, no?


Saladin: When I’m not King, I quake for Islam.



Hospitaller: I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What god desires is here [points to head]
Hospitaller: and here [points to heart]
Hospitaller: and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man – or not.

Jerusalem: Who do you think you are? Will you alter the world? Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?
Balian of Ibelin: [pause, turn slowly to face Bishop] Yes.

Almaric: They will ask for terms. We *must* ask for terms.
Jerusalem: Convert to Islam, repent later.


Tiberias: [to Balian] May God be with you, he’s no longer with me.

King Baldwin IV: Come forward. I am glad to meet Godfrey’s son. He was one of my greatest teachers. He was there when, playing with the other boys, my arm was cut. It was he, not my father’s physicians who noticed that I felt no pain. He wept when he gave my father the news, that I am a leper. The Saracens say that this disease is God’s vengence against the vanity of our kingdom. As wretched as I am, these Arabs believe that the chastisement that awaits me in hell is far more severe and lasting. If that’s true, I call it unfair. Come. Sit. When I was sixteen I won a great victory. I felt in that moment that I should live to be one hundred, now I know I shall not see thirty. You see, none of us chose our end really. A king may move a man, a father may claim a son. But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say “but I was told by others to do thus” or that “virtue was not convinient at the time. This will not suffice. Remember that.
Balian of Ibelin: I will.
King Baldwin IV: Then go now to your father’s house at Ibelin, and from there protect the pilgim road. Protect the helpless. And then perhaps one day when I am helpless you will come and protect me.

[first lines]
Gravedigger: Crusaders.
[first title cards]
Title card: It is almost 100 years since Christian armies from Europe seized Jerusalem.
Title card: Europe suffers in the grip of repression and poverty. Peasant and lord alike flee to the Holy Land in search of fortune or salvation.
Title card: One Knight returns home in search of his son.
Title card: France 1184

[last title card]
Title card: The King, Richard the Lionheart, went on to the Holy Land and crusaded for three years. His struggle to regain Jerusalem ended in an uneasy truce with Saladin. Nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Kingdom of Heaven remains elusive.


Godfrey of Ibelin: Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath.
Godfrey of Ibelin: [cuffs Balian with the back of his hand] And that’s so you remember it.
Hospitaller: Arise a knight and Baron of Ibelin.


Saladin: As-Salaam-Alaikum
Balian of Ibelin: And peace be with you.

Tiberias: [to Balian] You’re your father’s son. He was my friend. I’m yours.


Hospitaller: Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves.

Tiberias: That I would rather live with men than kill them is certainly why you are alive.
Guy de Lasagne: [Chuckles] That sort of Christianity has its uses, I suppose…


Balian of Ibelin: How can you be in hell, when you are in my heart?

Sybilla: There will be a day when you will wish you had done a little evil to do a greater good.


King Baldwin IV: A King may move a man, a father may claim a son, but remember that even when those who move you be Kings, or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God, you cannot say, “But I was told by others to do thus.” Or that, “Virtue was not convenient at the time.” This will not suffice. Remember that.

Balian of Ibelin: God will understand, my lord. And if he doesn’t, then he is not God and we need not worry.

Hospitaller: [to Balian] You sail now for Jerusalem as your father wished. If God has purpose for you there, he’ll keep you safe in his hands.
Hospitaller: If not, God bless you.

Balian of Ibelin: Such as we are… you will be.

King Baldwin IV: If you continue like this, I shall have to find some use for you. If God can spare you, that is.
Balian of Ibelin: God does not know me.
King Baldwin IV: Yes, but I do.

Reynaldo: Who says I raid?
Tiberias: That witness, all of Jerusalem, Holy God! – and me.

Templar Master: We should meet the enemies of God!
Guy de Lasagne: And so we shall.
Tiberius: Then you do so without my knights.
Guy de Lasagne: Then I will have the glory, Tiberias. You had yours, years ago. It’s time for mine.

Tiberias: I have given Jerusalem my whole life. First, I thought we were fighting for God. Then I realized we were fighting for wealth and land. I was ashamed.

Odo: Have you been at war?
Balian of Ibelin: On horse. And as an engineer also.
Odo: Against whom and for whom did you fight?
Balian of Ibelin: For one lord against another, on a point which cannot be remembered.
Odo: There’s better game now: one God against another. The pay is proportionate.

Balian of Ibelin: [about burning the bodies] God will understand and if not he is not God and we need not worry.


Priest: You always turn the other cheek. I think that you conceive yourself without sin… that is a sin!

Bishop: A law can go too far… it can go too far. I ask myself, ‘would Jesus do thusly?’ There is so much done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable.

There are two symbolic scenes at the end of the movie. In the first, during the battle for Jerusalem, we see the captured king of Jerusalem riding backwards on a donkey before the city gates wearing what looks like a dunce cap.

The second instance of heavy-handed symbolism occurs when Saladin picks up a fallen altar cross and sets it on a table, a gesture so ludicrous as to provide an inadvertent moment of comic relief. The battle in Jerusalem concludes with Balian leaving town while portentously pronouncing, “If this is the Kingdom of Heaven, let God do with it as he wills.”

To return to the home page, click on the header at the top of this page.


From → Church History, Film

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: