History | 1960 | Sound | Colour
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Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire.
Educational film reconstructing Charlemagne's effort to Christianise the pagans of Saxony in the 8th century AD. Historical re-enactment.
View of the leaves of a tree on a sunny day. Point of view shots of a man, scoops a handful of water from a stream. Scan of the stream and the woods with footsteps heard in the background. A man in peasant dress crouches in the undergrowth. A man on a horse gallops through a field, where the grass burns. The man in the undergrowth says to the camera "We killed them!". The soldier on the horse, dressed in chain mail armour with sword rides up to the edge of the wood and sees a horse with its rider, dead on the ground with an arrow in his back. The peasant man shifts down the hill of the copse. The soldier on horseback enters the wood, sword in hand. The peasant slides all the way down the hill to the stream at the bottom of the gully. The soldier rides out of the trees. The peasant is a Saxon , he admits to having killed Charlemagne's lords, he relates what happened to camera. View of a young priest dressed in black coming into the wood and making the sign of the cross, the Saxon spits and runs off.
A soldier counts the number of dead lying in the wood as the commentator tells us that it is 782 AD in Saxony, Germany. The hands of a priest hold parchment with Roman numerals on it, counting the numbers off with his quill. A soldier holding the arrow in his belly that killed him, then the soldier still counting the dead and another dead man, possibly a Saxon in brown and green, lying with his eyes open, the soldier counting turns around and points to the priest as he gives the tally at thirty. A soldier in a chain mail shirt walks up to the priest. In the distance, King Charles I, the Great (Charlemagne) on horseback wearing a gold crown and red cloak, accompanied by his soldiers looks at the dead as he walks through the scene of the battle. Title. Over the horses neck, a man lies sprawled on the ground, face down. He climbs down off his horse, picks up the head of the dead man and lays it back down, he climbs back on his horse while one of his men holds the stirrup for him. He prods his horse forward and his men follow him. Charlemagne rides his horse and asks 'How many?' The priest walking away from him turns and pauses. Charlemagne asks him again. The priest answers reluctantly. Charlemagne looks shaken but moves his horse forward. A dead man lays on the ground in the dead leaves, then Charlemagne making his ways across the scene of carnage, accompanied by the priest, Charlemagne gets off his horse and walks towards us, looking at the dead, he falls on his knees beside one man, Odo, and holds him to his chest. Charlemagne, with tears in his eyes looks at the surrounding men and then gently lays Odo down. Two of his men look on with worried expressions on their faces. Charlemagne is wearing a red cloak, his hair around his neck, a fabric crown and a long moustache. Charlemagne moves towards another dead body with an arrow sticking out of his chest, he looks back at the priest, who watches impassively. He kneels and prays next to one of the men lying dead, as a lackey approaches and is shooed away when he informs the king that they must bury the dead.
Pan of soldiers wearing metal helmets with crosses attached to the front of them, stand on guard as Charlemagne wanders through. Close up of Rodolphe who is fighting, he tells us, to seek revenge on the Saxons for the murder of his wife and children. Another Frankish soldier speaks with anger of the Saxons and the way they burn their dead, sometimes even eating them! A group of soldiers sits around the fire. Rodolphe watches the other soldier talking to us. The rest of soldiers look beaten and depressed. The soldier talks. Charlemagne weeps. Two men carry a body on a makeshift stretcher. Rodolphe speaks and then sits up straight in the saddle as he hears his name called, and moves his horse forward. He approaches Charlemagne, who swears vengeance.
Two Frankish soldiers ride furiously along a road and approach a wood house, they slide off their horses and bang on the door of the house demanding to be let in, in the name of the king. One of the soldiers bursts through the door and then a woman stirring a pot over the fire and one of her children, then Mobret, a Saxon noble nominally loyal to Charlemagne gets up off his bunk and nods to the woman, who disappears with the children. The soldier tells Mobret that he must muster with Charlemagne tomorrow. The woman looks worried, and holds her child on her hip. The soldier leaves, Mobret follows him out the door, and looks back at his wife, she comes to him and he hugs her and the child, picks up another child and hugs him. The Mobret runs off and the two soldiers ride away behind a group of peasants who run in to the forest in front of them. A wide road, soldiers march while horsemen pass each other with messages. Mobret's wife runs to the edge of the settlement with the youngest child and looks after her husband.
Rodolphe rides quickly through the fog covered camp of Charlemagne, with white tents erected and pikes driven into the ground. Inside Charlemagne's tent, Rudolph comes through the tent flaps and, kneels, fist pressed to his chest. Charlemagne's advisors stand around him as he sits on his throne, Rudolphe goes to the priest in the corner, Charlemagne gets up and paces the length of the tent, then he is joined by one of his advisors, Alcuin who helped reform the clergy at this time, and they bend over a table, examining a map? together. The herald outside announces someone and two men dressed more like Roman soldiers than Frankish warriors, enter, one of the men kneeling before Charlemagne with a scroll as more soldiers dressed similarly enter the tent, then one of Charlemagne's advisors talks about their religious duty. Charlemagne sits on his throne reading the scroll. The advisor speaks and then leans over the map on the table. He turns it around and points Charlemagne's Empire. Charlemagne sends a messenger away, and then Alcuin keeps talking about the schools he founded in Charlemagne's Empire, he stands in front of the priest, clothed in a black habit, and then a close up of his face. Charlemagne gets up off his throne and talks to two of his missi dominici, royal officials stationed in different areas. The two missi dominici talk. The priest watches. Alcuin listens to Charlemagne, the priest approaches with quills and parchment as he starts to dictate a letter to the Pope. Alcuin continues the dictation and the priest writes, Charlemagne looks on.
The camp, men sit around camp fires, outside their tents, men on horses walk through the camp. Soldiers walk through the dense forest in Saxony, in single file, led by the priest, another priest carries a large cross in front of him. The soldiers walk through a ruined monastery , an old monk holds up a small cross as they pass.
Two envoys ride horses along a road, bringing Modred to the muster. Horses legs as they walk through a stream, then the backs of the horsemen as they ride away from us. Charlemagne and his entourage ride on a woodland road, they stop as someone approaches. The Saxon nobles dismount as they come towards Charlemagne. Charlemagne and company move forward. Mobret joins the other nobles and they discuss the situation. Charlemagne's soldiers secure the position, Charlemagne motions for the heralds to blow their horns, and then begins to talk. The Saxons start yelling that a renegade was responsible for the slaughter of the army. Charlemagne yells from his horse. Montage of shots of the Saxons faces. Charlemagne raises his fist in the air. The Saxons crouch under the trees and look worried. Charlemagne continues his rant. The Saxons protest their innocence. One Saxon slowly gets on his horse. Another moves to do the same. Charlemagne yells for his men to attack. A column of soldiers charges forward on their horses. The Saxons make a run for the trees, carrying their pikes, most on foot. The soldiers ride across the river bed, foot soldiers run forward. The Saxons try to get away. A cavalry man cuts down a Saxon. Quickly, various shots of Saxons falling dead, some hand to hand sword fighting, people falling off horses dramatically. Saxons run towards us through the trees, soldiers on horse back gallop along the road behind them. Men run wildly through the stream with their swords drawn, horsemen follow on their heels. Charlemagne watches the battle. A Saxon pulls a soldier off his horse and is stabbed from behind by another soldier. A soldier rides down a Saxon on a horse and pulls him off he strangles the Saxon. Alcuin and Charlemagne watch, Alcuin looks down. The river runs red with 'blood', a dead Saxon lies by the river. A cross picked out at over the door of a stone church, a boy carries a cross towards the church, followed by a monk. People come up some stone steps, and walk behind the priest. The priest walks towards us the crowd behind him. The group of people enters a long, dark tunnel lit by candles to one side. A stack of straw burns. Two soldiers with burning brands ride past a building towards a home. Montage of burning buildings with thatch roofs and people running everywhere, some chased by horsemen. The wife of Mobret leaves her house with her two children and walks away from us, surrounded by burning buildings and other people being forced to leave their homes. The side of a burning building as soldiers run the inhabitants out of the yard. The mother and children pass a burning building and follow the rest of the village out of the fence into the forest.
Alcuin takes a crown topped with a cross from a stand, he turns and walks up the aisle between watching nobles. He bows at the altar and then bows again as he gives it to the bishop ( or pope?), the bishop walks up the stairs to the altar and Charlemagne stands before him, the bishop raises the crown above Charlemagne's head. Quickly, faces in the crowd. The bishop puts the crown on Charlemagne's head and begins to pray. Charlemagne turns, the bishop kisses the edge of his cloak.
Sun shines through green leaves. A cart moves along a woodland road as two horsemen pass it, a cross stands on the side of the road. A field of vegetables. A cathedral rises in the distance over open fields. The front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the main door and rose window above it. A stained glass window, with a shield of fleurs-de-lis held by two angels.
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