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Review – Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend (DVD)

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This review also appears at Earthpages.org

Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend is a documentary by Philip Gardiner that opens with some great footage of contemporary actors playing Robin Hood and his band of noble rebels.

The film includes some wonderful scenes of Sherwood Forest, along with enchanting medieval ruins and artifacts.

With this authentic setting, Robin Hood delves into historical records, folkloric possibilities and mythological parallels centered around the legend of Robin Hood, the pervasive culture hero who “steals from the rich and gives to the poor.”

The film’s content is quite rich and informative and its atmosphere is convincing. While the actors portraying the outlaw community are quite obviously modern people, they seem to resonate nicely with the Robin Hood myth, probably because most are forestry workers who volunteered for the film.

Toward the second half of the DVD, Robin Hood begins to reveal its distinctly Gnostic approach and the film arguably begins to lose some of its former objectivity.

I use the word “objectivity,” however, with a grain of salt because it’s probably impossible for any human being or group to be entirely objective.

When you think about it, what independent, non-commissioned filmmaker doesn’t tend to present a unique outlook within his or her work?

Looking at this another way, one could say that the first half of Robin Hood covers the bases. Around the middle, the film shifts to emphasize the filmmaker’s Gnostic leanings, which closely resemble those of the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung.

I’ve never met Philip Gardiner and am assuming the Gnostic position accurately reflects his own beliefs. This seems a reasonable assumption as many of his films depict Gnosticism as a shining counterpoint to a tarnished old Christian Church.

As a believing Christian who sees the New Testament as a theological work containing elements of fact, myth and exaggeration, I admittedly stumbled a bit over Robin Hood’s claim that Jesus Christ and John the Baptist are equals.

Consider the following New Testament passage:

John replied to all of them, “I am baptizing you with water, but one is coming who is more powerful than I, and I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps. It is he who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Despite what the New Testament story says here, Robin Hood suggests that the archetypal pair of Jesus and John is also manifest in the images of Robin Hood and Little John, the Graeco-Roman twins Castor and Pollux, and among many other mythic exemplars and cosmological models.

Carl Jung, who developed the modern notion of the archetype, also made liberal use of analogy among world religions and myths. Jung claimed that the basic truth underlying diverse archetypal imagery was discernible through the insights of analytical psychology–i.e. depth psychology.

Some scholars, however, have little sympathy for this approach, maintaining that the extensive use of analogy is usually too loose and not grounded in real historical and cultural contexts. Unrestrained analogizing, they say, yields specious arguments and ultimately detracts from the credibility of a given study.

Scholars of this persuasion say that aspects of contemporary scholarship are lamentably falling into a kind of black hole where any pseudo-historical truth claim is passed off as fact as long as it sells.

Meanwhile, many authors and researchers promote the liberal use of analogy, equating it with seeing “The Big Picture.”

One could also ask whether the abundant use of analogy really is the Big Picture approach, or whether it just appears to be for those who haven’t experienced and therefore don’t know of anything better.

Enter the Christian theologians, particularly the Catholics, who claim that the contemporary Church doesn’t mindlessly bash Gnostic and Pagan elements but ennobles their worthwhile aspects within the higher, more comprehensive vantage point of Christian belief.

That’s why, they’ll argue, we find various artworks depicting Pagan themes within the Vatican museums.

Not a few Protestants, of course, balk at this scenario. Some even pejoratively call the Catholic Church the “Whore of Babylon.”

But this isn’t the place to go too deeply into the complexities of religious rivalry.

To return to Robin Hood, from a purely educational standpoint this is a valuable film. It brings to life the timeless tale of a notorious sinner-saint who, like many before him, takes refuge in the woods while pursuing justice in the face of an ignoble ruler.

The DVD’s special features section includes more commentaries and Gnostic-Pagan pop music videos.

Indeed, there’s something for everyone here. Even the most discerning of scholars might learn from Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend, lest they get lost in the minutiae and miss the forest for the trees.

–MC

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Author: Michael Clark

I'm the administrator of Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca with a Joint Honours B.A. in Psychology/Sociology at York and Trent U, an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion at Visva-Bharati, India, and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at UOttawa.

One thought on “Review – Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend (DVD)

  1. This looks interesting. I have researched the Robin Hood legend for over thirty years and have a blog dedicated to a forgotten film and the legend at http://disneysrobin.blogspot.com/. There will be no doubt a revival of interest in Robin Hood now that Crowe’s version is soon to be released. I would just like to say that the the story behind the 900 year old legend is just as fascinating!

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