Braveheart (1995)

Submitted by dalcassian on 10 February, 2017 - 11:46 Author: Sean Matgamna

THE Scottish National Party is mounting a
recruitment campaign around Braveheart,
and well they might. This is an odd con-
coction, a cultural hybrid which has a raw
note of sincerity to it and is therefore
strangely moving.

It’s hero is William Wallace who in the
13th century led a popular movement for
Scotland's independence from the English,
until, betrayed to the English king by the
high Scottish nobility, he was hanged in
London, disemboweled alive and then
chopped in pieces. This is the Wallace of one
of the best political songs ever written,
Robert Burn's "Scots wha hae wi Wallace
bled..." [Scots who have with Wallace bled].

As history' it is risible in parts. Wallace
has an affair with Isabella, the French wife
of the future King Edward II — the homo-
sexual king who was dethroned by Isabella
and her lover Mortimer and then murdered
by having a red hot poker thrust up his anus
into his bowels — and leaves her pregnant
with the future Edward III...

Nevertheless, it works. It is a tale of how
a people, scorning its own traitorous nobil-
ity, rises up, and start a stubborn struggle to
win their independence — their "freedom".
Their leader, Wallace, is Robin Hood,
William Tell, Davy Crockett and Jesus Christ
all in one.

Mel Gibson, the American-Australian star
and director of Braveheart is a fundamen-
talist Catholic and this film is full of the
Christian symbols of sacrifice, martyrdom
and popular redemption through the shed-
ding of the martyr's blood. Gibson's images
merge his version of the story of William
Wallace, Scotland's saviour, into the gospel
story of Jesus Christ, the saviour of human
kind. The symbols become fused and inter-
changeable. Even the table on which
Wallace is made to lie down to be butchered
is shaped like a cross.

This film tries to do for Wallace and Scot-
tish nationalism what Patrick Pearse did for
Irish nationalism. Pearse's mystical Catholic
nationalist poetry and his all too real mar-
tyrdom after the 1916 Easter Rising
fused Irish nationalism with Christian
mythology. Pearse died, and Gibson is rak-
ing in the big bucks, but the emotional
power of such things should not be under-
estimated, even in an era like ours when
Christianity is not what it used to be.

A mythology bestowed on the SNP as an
unexpected gift from Hollywood could not
have the power of the real sacrifice
of Pearse. It can have a cumulative effect.
The SNP's use of this film must inevitably
strengthen the raw, racial, right wing ele-
ment in its own political physiognomy.

At some point Nationalism such as it is in
Scotland now, fermenting and bubbling,
must if continuously frustrated undergo a
sea change into something far more malig-
nant.

The sooner a Scottish assembly convenes in
Edinburgh, the better!