Awe-inspiring in its depth and ambition, 1000 AD: A Tour of Europe recounts the wealth of conflicts and defining moments that characterized the closing of the first millennium throughout the European continent. Amidst the uprisings and power transitions, much of the Europe we know today began to take shape during this tumultuous time period.
The film begins in the year 996 as the King of Germany Otto III assumes the role of emperor of the Romans. Both the emperor and many of his followers believed that the thousand-year milestone following the birth of Jesus would bring about the end of days. Apocalypse seekers continued to lie in anticipation following Otto's death in 1002.
In France, the film follows the path of the Capetian dynasty, an era which would lead to the formation of the French nation-state and the age of castle building. The Crusades would eventually follow by the end of the century.
Viewers will also learn of Sweyn Forkbeard, the King of Denmark who overtook the reigns of his father and ruled during a particularly vicious time. In Hungary, Stephen the Great would become one of the most consequential of the European rulers. He continues to be revered today as the patron saint and founder of the Medieval Hungarian kingdom. At the close of the tenth century, the Byzantine Empire enjoyed a massive resurgence and ushered in a line of solider emperors.
The film also offers brief, but well-informed histories of additional territories, including Normandy, Britain, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Venice, Armenia, Bohemia, Egypt and others. The film stitches together a rich mosaic of endless border wars, larger than life rulers, and growing tensions between the pagan and Christian peoples.
1000 AD: A Tour of Europe is an impressive, refreshingly straight-forward production. Its re-enactments are sparse and convincing. For much of its running time, it smartly values infectious and engaging narration, revealing archival photographs, and modern-day visits to the historical sites featured in the film. Along the way, it revels in the unearthed relics, castles and other architecture, and the numerous conflicts that shaped both the land and its people.
Directed by: Pete Kelly