Reclaiming the Blade

DVD Review

There is certainly nothing that comes close to what Reclaiming the Blade, the new documentary from Galatia Films, has attempted. The need to place the modern popular culture's fascination with the sword in context with what has been going on within the historical fencing community is a challenging undertaking.  Reclaiming the Blade brings a much needed perspective on the Medieval & Renaissance sword to the general public.

This is an unprecedented effort very well put together, entertaining as well as informative. There are superb visuals and excellent graphics throughout.  High production values and professional work make this a first rate professional documentary.  While aimed at a general audience it is entertaining to specialists as well. While the film pays homage to the emergence of historical fencing studies and the revival of interest in real swords and real swordsmanship --- in contrast to the usual stunt fencing, sport game, and escapist role-play.

Fortunately, the variety of individuals featured from the historical fencing community was refreshingly done without it coming across as shallow or patronizing toward them.  Many are portrayed with genuine sincerity and confidence. That sympathetic touch has to be commended, as a documentary can easily be too familiar with its subject or else feel too distant.  A tremendous amount of the narration from the middle and end of the film will also sound very familiar from the message expressed by the ARMA. One has to appreciate that the film did correctly identify our craft as something distinct and new, and the creative manner it handled the challenge of acknowledging that only now has it recently come to influence the pretend sword combat of entertainment. The creators also worked in the message that theatrical swordplay should and can do it better so that everyone benefits.

The central message of the film, however, doesn't fully portray the fact that the legitimate revival of historical European fencing actually requires acknowledging the need for "reclaiming the blade" from the usual suspects. Instead, the message is more a desire to try to celebrate everthing involved in every modern incarnation of the sword as all being just different equal voices in the same happy chorus. It works hard to pay homage to this even as it seems to regret the very message it is trying to celebrate: that the emergence of historical fencing studies and the revival of interest in real swords and real swordsmanship now is a direct result of the fact that certain parties said "enough!" to the usual stunt fencing, sport game, and escapist role-play.
 That message is perhaps made too softly here to be noticed in the way it could --- and rightly should --- have.

Regardless of this being the first film to ever cover our craft of historical fencing in an intelligent and accurate manner, it is a respectable and worthwhile effort at filmmaking in it's own right.  The satisfying message was effectively expressed that the modern sport of fencing, the fencing of notorious groups like the Sca, as well as the swordplay of popular entertainment are not representations of the historical European martial art of the sword --- something which is at long last being reclaimed elsewhere.  While the movie is often an inconsistent mix, it's a satisfying enough presentation for any student of historical European sword arts.  Though a bit inconsistent and even schizophrenic at times, there is no denying it is an admirable and unprecedented look at the Sword in Western culture today.  Reclaiming the Blade is certainly something every student of this craft should have in their own DVD collection.  While it misses some opportunities in what it does and how it presents things, expect this film to have a lasting and positive impact.  


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