DVD: Barbarossa- Siege Lord


DIR: Renzo Martinelli • WRI: Renzo Martinelli, Giorgio Schottler, Anna Samueli • PRO: Renzo Martinelli • DOP: Fabio Cianchetti • ED: Osvaldo Bargero • DES: Rossella Guarna • CAST: Rutger Hauer, Raz Degan, F. Murray Abraham

Barbarossa- Siege Lord seemed to be an excitingly epic film to review, that was before placing the DVD into the player. The story follows Emperor Barbarossa who is challenged in his desire to build his empire by a ‘company of death’ from Milan.

Barbarossa sees the use of some excellent cinematography ultimately let down by the bizarre need to dub. The dubbing here is some of the shoddiest that I have come across, and fails to even offer the comic value that can sometimes be gained from bad dubbing. Why the creators felt the need to badly dub a film about Italian patriots I’ll never know. But that decision is one which will send this film spiralling into the pit of movie oblivion, perhaps if it had been subtitled, it might garner less confused looks from its audience.

Rutger Hauer seems to be drowning under the weight of his character Barbarossa. Whilst some of our cast members put up a brave fight, it is obvious early on that they are fighting a losing battle. It becomes increasingly hard to relate to the characters as the story progresses as the audience’s loyalty is never truly given to anyone. Our sympathies lie as much with the Milanese as with Barbarossa, as do our irritations. It seems a little odd that a film entitled Barbarossa should focus so heavily and ultimately fail to give its audience any reason to get behind him. Only his queen Beatrix remains unmoved by any character but her husband.

This is a film which is massive in scope as it attempts to cover vast landscapes and timeframes. Therein lies its downfall. By attempting to cover everything, the little details of character and story are lost which could have taken this from oddity to entertainment. It is a story that could have been told well if it had been done correctly, one that could have drawn the audience inside its world and had us gasp as the tension builds. Unfortunately, as it is now, it is more a film which has been done well, and better, countless times before.
The battle scenes are the finest parts as they are cinematic and vast in scope, but it’s often the sign of a poor storyline when we find ourselves wondering when the next fight will be. At times we may forget that we are not in fact watching Braveheart. As the cries for freedom ring out, we’re almost waiting for Mel Gibson to pop out, if only to see what he’ll do. As much as I wanted there to be a wonderful film hidden beneath layers of bad dubbing, it unfortunately left me joining in with the cries for freedom.

It’s a shame that this film missed the mark by such a large degree for such simple reasons. If the story and characterisation were just tightened slightly, we may find ourselves able to relate, but as it stands, it’s not a movie which will keep you on the edge of your seat, in fact, you’ll probably have wandered off like the story itself.

Which reminds me, did I leave the oven on?

Ciara O’Brien

Barbarossa: Siege Lord is released on DVD on 4th April 2011

  • Format: PAL
  • Region: Region 2
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Metrodome Distribution
  • DVD Release Date: 4th April 2011
  • Run Time: 123 minutes



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