Cromwell (1970)
Cromwell (1970)

Richard Harris is the centerpiece of Cromwell, a 1970 film about the historical figure Oliver Cromwell. His Shakespearian-informed acting sets the tone of the film.

Frankly, it's a movie full of English men shouting. All of it delivered in an ornate and sophisticated vernacular befitting the period. As an American, it's a treat to dissect.

Throughout the film, English men launch spittle and spare no opportunity to invoke the name of God, the king, or England (and any combination thereof).

cromwell's castle
cromwell shouting

The photography is comptetent and enjoyable. The composition of many shots replicate those of a Renaissance painting.

There are many scenes in the movie that illustrate grand spectacle. Scenes portraying Parliament, the battlefield, and the eventual conclusion of the story employ hundreds of extras to illustrate the reality of these events. And it's believable.

the king, renaissance style
troops assembled battlefield
troops assembled battlefield
troops assembled battlefield

It's a complex story, with no clear hero. Cromwell is easily the protagonist, and without discernment, his accomplishments can be seen as abject wins.

However, he is not an all-perfect character, and exhibits behavior in the movie that could reflect deep flaws.

Throughout the film he occasionally imparts a blood-thirsty prejudice against the Catholics.

cromwell throwing furniture

At one point, Cromwell uses his army to override the very Parliament he fought to protect in a brash display of brute power. And at the end of the movie, we're left wondering if Cromwell bit off more than he could chew.

cromwell losing it

Seeing Sir Alec Guinness outside of Star Wars canon is a treat and his performance in this film is a good counterbalance to Harris' character.

Guinness very deftly played the part of an innocent, weak-willed, child-like king, completely oblivious to the reality of his subjects and their earnestness in seeking to extinguish his reign and eventually his life.

cromwell losing it

The moral dilemma of the story is interesting as well. The king had become insufferable by his subjects, yet it was still widely accepted that a king was "ordained by God."

After watching the film, I was left wondering how a man like Oliver Cromwell could convince so many people to effectively go against God by executing their king. What sort of situation allows a society to challenge their own notion of God?

parliament deciding on the kings death warrant

It's an interesting dilemma, and it plays out to the end, with Thomas Fairfax refusing to sign the King's death warrant.

cromwell title frame

According to Google Translate, "Der Unerbittliche" translates to "The Relentless One."