BARBAROSSA. THE COMPANY OF THE DEATH
(Hristo Shopov as Archbishop Reinald of Dassel)
ORIGINAL TITLE: Barbarossa.
DIRECTED BY: Renzo Martinelli.
MAIN CAST: Rutger Hauer, Hristo Shopov, F. Murray Abraham, Raz Degan, Kasia Smutniak, Christo Jivkov, Antonio Cupo, Cécile Cassel, Zoltan Butuc, Vasile Albinet, Dicu Aurel, Robert Baer, Marius Chivu and Thomas Davis.
PRODUCED BY: Renzo Martinelli and Riccardo Pintus.
WRITTEN BY: Renzo Martinelli, Anna Samueli and Giorgio Schottler.
ORIGINAL MUSIC BY: Pivio and Aldo de Scalzi.
RUNTIME: 139 minutes (theatres).
COUNTRY: Italy - Romania.
GENRE: Drama | History.
SYNOPSIS:Italy. 12th Century.
Campagna, just outside Milan, 1158. By chance, a boy saves the life of an unknown gentleman. The boy’s name is Alberto da Giussano, the son of a merchant from Milan, and he can not believe his eyes when he realizes that the imposing warrior standing in front of him is no less than Frederick I of Hohenstaufen, the Emperor, also known as Barbarossa.
This is the first in a series of fateful encounters between two characters who, given their origin and social status, would never otherwise have met. A local lad from the most influential city in northern Italy and the German sovereign, with a reputation for being a virtuous man. But Frederick has a dream - achieving a universal empire, and a question that torments him - is he really the one chosen by God to carry out that mission?
So, while Alberto returns to his family and friends, in the thriving Milan, bustling with trade and commerce and engrossed in its struggles and alliances with other cities, Barbarossa, driven on in his yearning for conquest by his faithful adviser, Archbishop Reinald of Dassel (Hristo Shopov), seeks an answer by visiting the witch Hildegard of Bingen. Her verdict sheds a glimmer of hope, but ends with a sinister and mysterious warning: “Beware of water and the scythe. The scythe brings distrust. Water brings death.”
Alberto grows up and falls in love with Eleanor, who is suspected of being a witch for having been struck by lightning and survived, and plays his part in the city’s growing aspirations for autonomous rule.
Frederick I marries Beatrice of Burgundy, who when married is still just a girl but later ends up becoming one of the most determined supporters of her husband's mission. But in his bid to become imperator mundi, besides achieving supremacy over the Papal states, the rebellious cities of northern Italy must also be subdued. If he lays waste to Milan, according to Reinald of Dassel, all the other cities will fall meekly at the emperor’s feet.
On 10th March 1162, after a long siege, Milan falls under the command of the imperial troops, thanks, too, to the machinations of Siniscalco Barozzi, a corrupt Milanese in the emperor’s pay. During the siege and destruction of Milan, Alberto loses his brothers and sees how his life and everything he knows are shattered for ever. Blinded by grief, he tries to kill the emperor who, recognizing in Alberto the boy who saved him years earlier, spares his life - a fatal mistake, since the young Milanese will reap his revenge years later.
Exiled from Milan and forced to hide in the woods, Alberto finally gets to marry his beloved Eleanor. The young man da Giussano, determined to protect his home territory, gradually convinces the other occupied cities, impoverished and humiliated, that their only chance against Barbarossa is to join forces and find the courage to fight for freedom. Through Alberto’s stubbornness and iron will they form the Company of Death, a small army composed of young men from all strata of society who will stop at nothing to defend their homeland and the values they believe in. The spirit of brotherhood and unity between the cities leads to them swearing the Oath of Pontida and the birth of the Lombard League.
In the end, it is not just a case of two armies facing each other on the plains of Legnano, but of two irreconcilable ideas of power: the lofty utopia of a single kingdom led by a king chosen by God, versus the new, autonomous, trading model championed by the cities.
Face to face, on the plains of Legnano, stand an oppressed people struggling to attain their own freedom and a sovereign wishing to impose absolute power. Barbarossa himself leads a thousand-horse cavalry charge against a formation of mysterious carts, which advance towards them, seemingly empty. Suddenly, above the carts appear hundreds of sharp, deadly scythes – and the witch’s words echo through the emperor’s mind.
* NOTE: Also known as Sword of War.
BARBAROSSA - H. Shopov comments his character
BARBARROJA - H. Shopov as Reinald of Dassel