First impressions of Richard Armitage in Pilgrimage #Tribeca2017 [no spoilers]

So, yeah, I decided to come. Long story; maybe I’ll share it sometime, maybe I won’t …

Saw the film for the first time tonight — unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that two men toward the front of the theater got into an altercation about something or other (cell phone? popcorn?) just in the middle of one of Armitage’s most vicious scenes, and one of them claimed the other punched him in the face. Everyone was a little disturbed. This is a little unusual even for NYC, I find.

However, here are some bullet points. Keep in mind that I haven’t read any other reviews or responses yet, so this is unmediated Servetus:

  • There are going to be so many GIFs from this film. It is beautiful, and Armitage’s scenes are exactly what we expect from him in terms of fully inhabiting of the character.
  • The acting in general is excellent (not just Armitage).
  • Ireland is gorgeous. The Irish film board really got its money out of this one.
  • If the French characters often don’t sound French, well, the Irish characters often don’t sound Irish. But it’s one sort of redeeming aspect to the historical aspect of the film that they tried to show how limited understanding could affect tense situations in such a polyglot world.
  • Beautiful cinematography.
  • The relationship to actual medieval history is pretty vague / tenuous / simplified. (However: I am not saying anything about the depiction of the Irish because I never learned Irish history. I have some suspicions). The history is more accurate, though, than the depiction of religion. Ouch.
  • The script is … weird. It has a lot of compelling moments but it doesn’t cohere into a compelling story.
  • But you don’t completely notice, because the film is SO violent. OMG. Casually, brutally, IMO unnecessarily and not entirely credibly. But lots of blood and gore.
  • Armitage does really well, but like the script, the character sort of goes nowhere. It’s not clear from the script exactly what motivates him to do what he does, and this is a problem in such a violent film. I want to know why Raymond de Merville is so violent and full of rage. I can come up with explanations — but they are things that I have to either speculate about, or add from history, or hypothesize about in terms of what the script was trying to say.
  • That said: this is some of the cruellest Armitage we’ve ever seen and there’s no Robin Hoody irony to go with it. If you ever wondered if Armitage could consistently play mean without trying to add another layer that makes us sympathize with him? He’s done it this time.
  • Gosh, that sneer. The curl of those lips. It might be the most intense anger we’ve ever seen from him.

So many thoughts. More soon.

~ by Servetus on April 27, 2017.

46 Responses to “First impressions of Richard Armitage in Pilgrimage #Tribeca2017 [no spoilers]”

  1. I went to a movie one time where there was a (non-fatal) stabbing in the next cinema. I think it was about a cell phone. We were evacuated. Not very usual for Vancouver, either.
    Sometimes I wish I were closer to New York so I could go to some of these events, spur of the moment. That not being the case, I experience them vicariously. Thanks.

  2. Glad to hear that you saw the film!

  3. I’m a bit worried about the violence actually. I will definitely see it as this is the kind of role I think RA is so good in (and I like a knight/dwarf in shining armour!) I’m sorry there was the disturbance though to overshadow the movie. Thanks for the overview xxx

    • Americans typically have no problem at all with movie violence, but even in the theater there were gasps / expressions of disgust.

      • Maybe because it is gory violence?

        • I just saw it again. If you’re familiar with the term “Effekthascherei” that describes it perfectly.

          There was a sense in Hannibal that (as disgusting as it often was) it was also trying to be art. I didn’t really buy the argument, but there was an argument there to be made about the aestheticization of violence. This isn’t really like that — it’s sort of like poster that says: “Das Mittelalter ist gewalttätig — wir zeigen es!”

          • aha, makes sense.. although it does sound a bit like a friend of mine says, that they are using the Holzhammer to ‘drill’ it in 😉

  4. Sounds as though this was one script that would have benefited from 3 am emails from Richard .

    • I think if you accept the general assumptions of the story, it might not bother you. I’ve never really been clear on how much Armitage himself doesn’t like or likes violence in films — he did study stage fighting, after all. But I also think that anyone who (like the vast majority of filmgoers) wants something like partial closure from a script is going to be left scratching their heads. In a way, it was like they decided they’d run out of money to film and just ended the story when they spent their last Euro.

  5. Now I want to see it even more; and I do not mind violence. is keeping fingers crossed to be released here

    • This isn’t at all violent in the way that Hannibal was — it’s a really impersonal violence. Which might make it more or less disturbing, depending on your viewpoint. But this is going to be a “must-see” for Armitage fans. I suspect there will be edited versions coursing the internet, sub rosa, for us. He’s just too good to miss. Whereas (in comparison) a lot of people are going to see Brain on Fire but I wouldn’t put it in the “if you haven’t seen this, you’re missing something important about Armitage’s career” category.

  6. I believe the original dispute in the theater was over a drink before it quickly escalated. Glad you are able to see it, Serv! My 2nd impressions: even knowing what was coming the violence still had a brutal, visceral quality, I was still invested in the proceedings and caught up in the urgency of plot/pacing, and RA is still a sexy beast of a presence and is completely riveting whenever he is onscreen. And also sitting further back in theater works better for me–not only because it’s easier to read subtitles but also mitigates a bit of the shakycam style of camerawork which gave me a bit of a headache the first time.

    Hope tonight’s screening is a lot more peaceful ( and without the snoring man next to me!)

    • LOL… i wonder what would keep that chap awake if such violence didn’t manage to

      • Truthfully I wondered that myself! He was an older gent and it was a late showing–it really didn’t take him very long to fall asleep I think–within 30 minutes. He did wake up in the middle of the altercation enough to shout at the guys fighting (just like a proper New Yorker LOL!!)

    • That was weird. I didn’t notice the beginning of it. I heard someone say “put that away … this is a movie theater” and then other audience members started cautioning them. I don’t know why one of them didn’t just move; there were empty seats in front. Maybe they were inspired by the film.

  7. So glad you got to see it early. Waiting for more from you when the time comes.

  8. […] here […]

  9. Glad you got to see it 🙂 and i am glad for the somewhat mitigating landscape, cinematography and good acting.

    • even the minor characters are excellently portrayed, but Tom Holland is good. This film should get lots of carryover from Spiderman — it’s the kind of a film that might appeal to men.

  10. Just a thought that comes to mind, i am sure we’ll have occasion to discuss this further along… Interesting there was so much read about Hannibal and his thoughts and conflicts, explanations about the role etc. As there was concern and doubt on our side. What a pity he hasn’t been able to be involved in any of the PR for Pilgrimage so far and looks like we won’t get much chance to read his thoughts on what sounds to me like a much darker character after all. And makes me wonder how he felt about playing this s shortly after Hannibal… my gran would have said ‘from lake into a deep well’

    • amusingly, too, there’s an interesting metaphorical connection between Francis Dolarhyde and Raymond de Merville — he must have thought about it — but also between Raymond and Thorin. I really do wonder if he thinks about these things.

      • Armitagebesotted and I asked the director about the Dolarhyde connection–he’d had no idea while filming and said RA never said a word to him either! Muldowney also said he thought Sir Raymond was the most “modern” character in the movie.

        • I guess … if by modern you mean “anachronistic.” But I think a church historian / medieval historian will have problems with this film that will bother other viewers less. It boggles my mind that Jamie Hannigan said he did actual research for this film … he cannot have read those books he tweeted the photograph of with any attention.

          • That was definitely my impression – that he didn’t read all those books. I’m looking forward to later on, ( once it’s released) when we feel more comfortable discussing some of this in depth. I’ve decided not to write anything in more detail now since so many fans haven’t seen it, but will have an opportunity later ( unlike, say Urban or Sleepwalker).

        • I’m sorry — that really sounded mean. That wasn’t my intention; there are plenty of medieval films that aren’t very historically accurate and that decision is, of course, the privilege of the filmmaker. This one just has fundamental errors right at the center, in the sense that if I were teaching a medieval film course, this would be a good one to assign as a paper topic because there is so much wrong to talk about. Raymond de Merville exemplifies a lot of things they misunderstood about the middle ages.

      • In like Ray is Thorin’s evil cousin? 😉

  11. Is the violence at Game of Thrones level or worse? I want to see it no matter what but my movie buddy might not want to go.

    I agree that it’s a pity he didn’t get to do a press junket for this film. It would be interesting to find out what specifically inspired him to take on the role, since you and others have said the script left the viewers unsatisfied at the end. Surely he must have known this, unless there were major changes made. It must be scary to see him very angry like you mentioned. I wouldn’t want to be the recipient of those looks! Thank you for this.

    • I haven’t seen any of Game of Thrones (only having read the first book), so hopefully someone else can answer.

      Given that this and Brain on Fire were both Irish Film Board sponsorships, and WME had a cooperation agreement with the iFB, my guess is that the answer would lie there somewhere. I’m guessing the attraction of Brain on Fire was Gerard Barett. But I really don’t know. Tom Holland is about to be a big deal but that wasn’t true two years ago.

      re: the ending specifically — endings are hard and I can see why this particular one might appeal to a filmmaker. However, it would have had to been executed differently.

      • Thanks. I read a spoiler free review from a critic who said the first two-thirds of the movie were engaging but it fell flat in the last one. He didn’t like the ending either.

        • we’re getting to the limits of what I can say without revealing spoilers, so maybe this will wait for a later post (I’m not going to read other reviews until after I see it again tonight and tomorrow night), but re: the ending, there’s a difference between the form of the ending and the way that it was realized here in the script. I see the form as a attractive (and I suspect that the script author thought he was “saying something”). But the way he realized it was totally ineffective. The end of a narrative is, in my experience, the hardest part to write.

          re: the first two thirds, I felt it was episodically engaging but in the end, if what we’re talking about is the shape of the narrative, that episodic quality contributed to the problems with the end. It’s really not entirely clear what the story here is, or what it means in a larger sense. The film stands on a sort of awkward boundary between medieval slice ’em up and comment on either medieval religion or religious sentiment in general.

          • Ah. If the audience is not clear as to what the message of the story is or why they bothered to make that film, then the effort is wasted. In this case it’s too bad because the cast is solid and the setting couldn’t be more beautiful.

      • I haven’t seen Pilgrimage, but from the reactions of others I would guess that the violence is worse than in GoT. Serv, how would you compare Pilgrimage and Outlander in terms of violence? I have a hunch that Pilgrimage could be worse. And Outlander is more visceral than GoT IMO.

        • I’m a loser: I did watch the very first episode of Outlander but I don’t remember it.

          • I think you mean Game of Thrones. Why remember it if you’re not gonna continue anyways. I’m not too fond of it, so my recollection of episode one is fuzzy at best. Too much other stuff to retain nowadays. (Just wondering if you saw my question. It was the first comparison that came to mind to answer Violet’s question, yet it might be to late already…)

            • No, I read your question. I watched the first episode of Outlander (it was free). There’s a post here about how good Graham McTavish looks, but that was it. I never saw any more of it.

  12. Nice that you went to see this and thanks for sharing your impressions!
    Despite the violence, I am still very curious about this. I hope for a more wide-spread release.

    • I think it might get one just by virtue of who is in it. One hopes certainly in Belgium, anyway — which shows itself so beautifully (although everyone will think it’s Ireland).

  13. […] (2017) three times at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Individual reactions from those nights are here, here and here. This is an attempt at a coherent evaluation of the film, but if you read those […]

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