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Too cramped to give the Arn-story any credit
I think I partly understand what the film makers tried to do here, but it's nearly impossible to fit 3 books (with a lot of content) in 4,5 h and not make it feel cramped. I like the costume and the scenery and the acting is pretty good. However, it feels like this series missed the very core of the story, which to me is 1) the impact of religion on the characters and society 2) the huge changes in the Northern society which took place during this time. These are the very themes that made the books interesting.
When it comes to religion, I would have loved to see more about the cultural and religious differences and how religion may lead to both demise and growth. For example when it comes to the relationship between Arn and the Saracens, which I think they depicted pretty good with the little screen time they got, but they left out so many important things. I also missed Arns early relationship with the monks at the monastery, and all he learnt there, since these were the relationships that shaped his whole being. It feels like they just rushed through this part, like it's not that important to the character and story.
Another important thing that they almost completely left out is the very main thing about Arn, what makes him both interesting and special: how he, wherever he goes, always is viewed as an outsider, someone who's weird and doesn't fit in (even in his own family). He constantly needs to prove himself and he always manages to prove people wrong. This important key character feature is barely shown in the series.
Moreover, I don't understand why they left out all the important work and influence Arn had on society, like making his home Arnäs the strongest fort in the country, building Forsvik and bringing home crucial war knowledge. (In reality I understand this is fictional, but it's such an excellent representation of how the Northern society grew and evolved at this time).
Another thing I have a hard time accepting is that none of the characters seem to age. They look exactly the same when they're 17 and when they're 50. It's awkward when the parents almost look the same age as their child. I understand that the budget might have been tight or that it's hard to change actors when jumping forward in time 5 years at a time, but at least give them grey hair or something. This might seem like a trifle, but it really ruins the feel and the actuality of the story.
All together the story is so pushed together you never have time to feel for or connect with the characters. It's sad cause these are complex and interesting characters and I really think the actors would've given them credit. Everything happens so fast. The first time I saw it I hadn't read the books and I had a really hard time keeping up with what was happening, with the rivalry between the different houses, who was connected to who, where we are in time and place and so on.
With all of this said, I think it's wonderful that Swedish film makers took the step and did this kind of project, which had never been done before in the country in the same scale. Even if there's so much I think it's lacking it's not a poorly made production and it's not a bad series all together. I think there's a lot of effort behind it. However, I think they should've waited until they had a bigger budget and preferably make it into 1 movie/book, which is usually standard and is also ideal when following the original story's dramaturgical curve. Then I think they would've had the opportunity to include all of the important factors and key elements that make this story so excellent.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Much better than the book
One of the few films that's actually better than the book. The film makers managed to take a rather protracted story (I don't mean the story in itself, but how it's played out and depicted in the book, with it slow pace and weird dramaturgical structure) and make it interesting with a clear purpose and constant forward movement. I would recommend this to anyone.