7 March 11

State of Siege

Last week I finished reading Fernand Braudel’s masterful tome The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, a book which I’ve been wanting to get through for about twenty-five years now. Looking around for other retellings of the same theme I came across the author Roger Crowley, who has recently written the books 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West and Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, The Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World. Crowley is an able storyteller, and I finished both these books in rapid succession. Sieges are at the center of both books: the siege and the fall of Constantinople being the subject of the first, and the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 being the centerpiece of the second book.

After reading Crowley’s narrative I decide the siege of Malta would make a great movie, hitting a number of good storytelling tropes: an epic defense against overwhelming odds; the sacrifice of one contingent of the defenders to buy time for the rest; and finally rescue by the arrival of reinforcements just in time (delayed by the ditherings of Philip II off in Spain). Sieges don’t seem to make it into war movies very often though. What comes to my mind is Helms’ Deep in The Two Towers, and switching from fantasy to history, the 1964 movie Zulu. This list of top ten siege movies doesn’t really add any other examples of siege warfare, most of the movies on the list being thrillers or horror flicks. I don’t think the siege of Constantinople has quite the potential for being a movie as does the siege of Malta. Not that 15th-16th century Mediterranean history has the slightest chance of making it into the movies: how can you film a historical drama without there being any English royalty around?

Posted by at 11:22 PM in Music and Film | Link |
  1. That’s funny: I just this evening read a few sentences about the siege of Malta (in John Keegan’s History of Warfare). Crowley, eh? I’ll look him up, it sounds like just my sort of thing!


    dale    8. March 2011, 22:19    Link
  2. I agree about Zulu. I’ve seen it probably half a dozen times and am utterly enthralled at each viewing. It’s the portrayal of honor among warriors that gets me.


    Susan    14. March 2011, 10:18    Link

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