City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Stone of Destiny Film Review


By edg - Posted on 19 June 2008

Stone of Destiny - Still
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Production: 
Charlie Cox (Ian Hamilton), Kate Mara (Kay Matheson), Billy Boyd (Bill Craig), Ciaron Kelly (Alan Stuart), Robert Carlyle (John MacCormick), Peter Mullan (Ian's dad)
Performers: 
Charles Martin Smith (writer-director)

If you are wondering why a romantic drama set around a famous Welsh poet, not the most famous student prank in Scottish history, opened the Edinburgh Film Festival then today we got our answer. Stone of Destiny is very mediocre.

To be honest, the expectations were low from the start. The film features some veteran Scottish actors - Robert Carlyle as nationalist academic John MacCormick and Peter Mullan as gruff middle class dad to our hero, Ian Hamilton (played by relative newcomer Charlie Cox). Rings trilogy star Billy Boyd is also here putting in a good, supporting role as a reluctant co-conspirator.

But the suspicion that a largely canadian production - writer-director Charles Martin Smith and much of his team are based in Vancouver, Canada - would have trouble getting under the skin of the Scottish nationalist psyche, is confirmed. It feels too much like an outsider looking in and comes off as a pretty-looking story, tugging a little too insistently at nationalist heart-strings.

There's no denying the symbolic importance that the Stone of Destiny has taken on for Scots. Also known as the Stone of Scone, this heavy slab of sandstone with its distinctive iron rings at each end, was thought to have been used as a pillow by the biblical Jacob.

Since around 847, Scottish monarchs were seated on the stone when they were crowned. But in 1296 it was pillaged by Edward I and removed to Westminster Abbey. Edward had a special Coronation chair built with a shelf underneath it for the Stone so that any English monarch would be crowned king of Scotland as well as England.

Then in 1950, Ian Hamilton and three other nationalists broke into Westminster Abbey and took the stone back to Scotland. The act was greeted with much glee and pride at getting one back on the "auld enemy".

The film, which is essentially a re-telling of Ian Hamilton's stone episode up until the point where it was eventually returned, looks beautiful with ravishing production values, but the story lacks depth and at times lacks direction. Nationalist sentiment is tricky to put into words and the painting-by-numbers script too often comes across as awkward and hollow.

Less forgiveable is that some of the writing is just plain clumsy. In the initial flirtatious meeting between Ian Hamilton and co-conspirator Kay Matheson (New York born Kate Mara) the dialogue seems painful and back to front, and elsewhere scenes are taken up with too much plot exposition.

On the positive side the rousing strains of Wild Mountain Tyme ("Will Ye Go Lassie Go...") are artfully arranged for harp and full orchestra, although I'm sure there will be criticisms of tweeness.

The film also succeeds in having its lump-in-the-throat moments such as when the media first report the story of the stolen stone and an intimate father and son scene between Ian Hamilton and his father. But these climactic moments would have been more powerful with a stronger script. The cast make the most of what they've got, although without setting the heather alight. Charles Martin Smith's drama wont stir nationalist fervour in the same way that a famous Australian director did with Braveheart.

As for the Stone of Destiny itself - I saw that yesterday in the honours room at Edinburgh Castle - although whether it was the real stone is now the subject of much academic debate. Even the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, has weighed in with a reiteration of the suggestion that the monks of Scone Palace gave Edward I a dummy stone and kept the real thing themselves. Now there's the subject for a film.

If anyone is really interested in making a film about the true history of the Stone of Destiny and the Royal family that were crowned upon it up until my ancestor King John de Baliol, they should ask me for the facts that have been passed down through generations of knights and priests to my late father Rev John Baillie. Alex Salmond is correct in believing the Stone was hidden by the Abbot of Scone. But there is a lot more of interest about it than the fact that Longshanks was fobbed off with a fake. The history of the Stone of Destiny and what it secretly symbolized is far more fascinating and colourful than Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' - it is the True story about the Holy Grail that has been lost to the world but kept safe by Baillie priests for hundreds of years. Prisca Furlong

You are quite correct there is far more to this story than has been told in any book or film, and yes its a much more interesting story than Dan Brown could ever write.
The community of the realm need to get it right it is the Stone of Scone that was taken to London, not the Lia Faill or Jacobs pillow or the Stone of Destiny that the ancient Scottish Kings were crowned upon.
The stone of which the film and hysterical Scotland speaks is a piece of Perthshire sandstone which was taken to London and did well. It was a part of the Abbey of Scone,which was taken to Edinburgh castle by Edward the firsts soldiers,when Edward saw this stone he immediately ordered his men back to Scone which they then destroyed looking for the real Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny,they destroyed the ancient chartulary of Scotland,along with most of its ancient charters and papers and they tortured the monks but they still did not find it.
Edward then returned to London,leaving the Stone of Scone at Edinburgh castle and canceling the making of a bronze throne chair,made to hold the real Stone,and covering up the Scottish coronation descriptions by Walter de Hemingford and Adam de Rishanger who had been present at the John Balliol coronation where the real stone was used.
After his death (Longshanks) the wardrobe master at Edinburgh wrote to Edward the second asking him what he wanted done with the petra magna. Edward the second ordered it to London,hence after the Treaty of Northhampton when Bruce was asked if he wanted it back,he refused the offer,penny dropped yet.
Please lets try and get some truth and light on this situation. It is the Stone of Scone that was in Westminister, it was the Stone of Scone that was returned to Edinburgh Castle...Not the Stone of Destiny they ar very different things... we have been fooled for more than 700 years by English actions... Lets choose the truth about the real Stone and perhaps we will be choosing our real destiny.
If you are that interested,look at the seals of David the first,Alexander the third and the Kelso charter cartouche they all show the Kings sitting on a round stone. Also check the description of Walter de Hemingford ... Concavus,Quidem ad Modem Rotundae Cathedrae Confectus .Check also the investigation done in the 19th century by eminent geologist Professor Teill.The Lord Lyon king at Arms and the Duke of York called it the Stone of Scone at the handover,it was wee Micky the Prat, that called it the Stone of Destiny. More than enough to prove that the piece of Perthshire that went to London and did well is the Stone of Scone, but not the Stone of Destiny....It was not a cesspit lid that the English Kings were crowned upon, it was the door to the floor chamber where the real stone was kept. Its past time for the truth to come to the fore and for Hysterical Scotland to start telling the truth.
The real problem that we have, people are not willing to seek the truth.
The Stone that was taken by Edward the firsts soldiers from Scone was not the Stone of Destiny,the Stone that was taken to London was the same stone,it became known as The Stone of Scone ,the Stone that was repatriated from London in the fifties was the Stone of Scone,the Stone that was returned to Edinburgh Castle and resides there is not the Stone of Destiny ,it is the Stone of Scone.
The Stone of Destiny,Jacobs Pillow, the Lia Faill was NEVER captured by the English.
It was spirited away by the monks before Edwards soldiers ever got to Scone and hidden. The Soldiers found a Stone sitting on the main altar in Scone because it was the door to the chamber where the real stone was kept,they assumed because it was sitting on the Altar that this was the correct Stone,it was a sandstone ashlar not a round polished piece of black basalt.... I am sorry about Neil MacCormick,but he would want the truth to be told. We in Scotland have been subject to too many lies over the centuries in order to control us,and if we cannot start telling or understanding what is the truth,then we can never claim our own Destiny.... Quaere Verum

John Ritchie ... Editor