The first time I saw Braveheart I was for the three hour span, like everyone else, mostly entranced by Mel Gibson’s legs. Recently, when I watched the movie again my attention was allowed to wander enough to grasp the message it was trying to send. Shame on you, Mel, for producing this piece of propagandistic putridity.
The story begins with the English King Edwards the Longshanks restoring a much-needed peace between the English and the Scots. A short while later, when he instituted the ‘Prima Nocta’ (English lords may party down with Scottish brides) I thought, “Finally, somebody who gets free love!” We may never know if this daring policy would have been but one in a series of enlightened reforms that would have led the country peacefully out of the Dark Ages and into the warm progressive light of progress because William Wallace (Gibson) bull-headedly used a single murder as an excuse to preemptively launch a campaign of organized murder that would claim countless lives throughout its duration.
The most heartbreaking scene in the movie occurs before the big Battle of Stirling. Wallace had recruited from the poorest percent of the population a herd of mindless sheeple to bleed and die for him in the senseless slaughter soon to come–a kind of ‘troop surge’ to pointlessly prolong the conflict. But two of these men turned out to be true heroes. Stepping forth from personal puddles of urine they courageously refused to participate in the carnage, and even attempted to persuade their fellows to tuck their tails between their legs with them! As they told the military establishment to f*** off I stood and applauded. This was true bravery. But it was all for naught. Wallace turned his propaganda machine on full throttle to silence the protesters and the killing commenced as scheduled.
Wallace next laid plans for a unilateral invasion of the sovereign nation of England. As his army moved onto English soil without a timetable for withdrawal it was like watching the next victim open the basement door in a slasher flick. It may be true that Edward the Longshanks had done some bad things in the past, but he was getting old and wasn’t a threat to anybody! Every move on the part of the King towards peace and reconciliation was shot down and spat on by the Scots, making it increasingly clear that Wallace had wanted to go to war all along. Perhaps he harbored a ulterior motive? A desire perhaps to finish what his father, who appeared in the movie’s opening scenes, had started?
Of course the official casus belli was for ‘freedom’. The accursed word cropped up over and over in the film. Every time I heard it I winced not unlike a Knight who says Ni at the sound of the word ‘it’. How much blood has been shed throughout history in the service of that demon!
But the climax revealed that it was Gibson’s intent to glorify the lie. The arrest of the infamous war criminal at last brought an end to the tragic cycle of violence. While his sentence was carried out he bellowed that word at the top of his lungs, instantly killing all Knights who say Ni within an 80-mile radius. Thankfully, I was able to hold onto my wits long enough to stumble close to the VCR and pop in a Michael Moore tape before I passed out.