Alfred the Great (1969)

Dublin Core

Title

Alfred the Great (1969)

Subject

Vikings
Politics and Warfare

Description

The 1969 film Alfred the Great is based on the life of King Alfred, who was considered one of the great Anglo-Saxon kings of England because he fought off the Vikings. In the film, Alfred is a young man who plans to pursue his personal vow to become a priest. While England ends up becoming ransacked by Danes, or Vikings, Alfred’s plans come to a halt. He finds and weds his true love, Aelthswith, and shortly after his brother - the King - dies. Alfred is upset that he no longer can be a priest, but aspires to political greatness once his pregnant wife is taken by the invading Danes. In the film, Alfred overcomes a great many number of battles and in the end defeats the cruel King Guthram and his Vikings and is reunited with his son, nobles, and wife. In real life, Alfred was much more accomplished! To date, this is the only feature film made about Alfred the Great. Religion and the status of men and women play crucial roles in shaping the plotline of the film. Like many historical films, Alfred the Great shows several historical accuracies and inaccuracies. Some inaccuracies include how the film stated the Vikings attacked in 871, when in reality the real attacks started in 793. Sources about Alfred include a biography, The Life of King Alfred, written by Asser, who portrays Alfred as a complicated man, albeit incredibly noble. Throughout the film, however, he is considered hard-headed and arrogant. In addition, Alfred had married Aelswith, who was actually the daughter of a Merican noble. She did not hold as much significance in real life as she did in the film. There is absolutely no indication that Aelswith was ever traded or taken hostage by the Viking King Guthram. This is a major departure from history; additionally, in the film, the queen bears a son, Edward, yet in real life, the queen had a daughter, Aethelflaed. The relationship between the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons was also far more complex, as evident in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. The “Great Heathen Army” was a mix of Vikings from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. King Guthrum is from the Lothbrok’s dynasty, but in the film, the Lothbrok dynasty is completely disregarded. During battle, Alfred is depicted as mean and a tyrant, which does not conform to historical accounts of the king. As Alfred is Christian, the cross hanging from Alfred’s neck is shown throughout the film several times. The Cross is actually a glorified symbol, and intends to emphasizes the importance of Christianity. Aside from Alfred and the few other priests, no one cares about religion as much as they care about the Vikings attacking and harassing their land and people. The film provided a limited view of gender roles during the ninth century. The beginning of the film starts with a couple that are playing on a field when the Vikings attack, and the woman, who was being fondled, is dropped to the ground in haste, and eventually taken by the Danes as a slave. The film constantly showed that the Vikings raped women and treated them like objects, though there the hair-raising detail in which the Vikings’ committed violence that feature in many monastic accounts is likely exaggerated. Throughout the film, Aelsthwith and the women in the film were not portrayed as strong or authoritative figures, though Aelsthwith is neither a silent nor innocent victim. The film goes to show that women were ultimately viewed as sexual objects and possessions, and did not have any importance aside from childbearing. Despite its historical inaccuracies and the countless number of battle scenes, the film is a story of a man, Alfred, who bravely fought for his country. The film proved to be a decent watch.

Creator

Aunkon Khan

Date

July 14, 1969

Rights

MGM

Language

English

Type

Biopic
Drama
War

Coverage

England
Scandinavia
Early Middle Ages (c. 500-1000)
9th century
c. 871-889

Moving Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Feature Film

Duration

122 minutes

Producer

Bernard Smith

Director

Clive Donner

Files

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Citation

Aunkon Khan, “Alfred the Great (1969),” Medieval Hollywood, accessed June 16, 2024, https://medievalhollywood.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/206.

Output Formats