Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beowulf and Grendel - Movie Review - Viking Week

Write-up taken from the IMDB site

The blood-soaked tale of a Norse warrior's battle against the great and murderous troll, Grendel. Heads will roll. Out of allegiance to the King Hrothgar, the much respected Lord of the Danes, Beowulf leads a troop of warriors across the sea to rid a village of the marauding monster. The monster, Grendel, is not a creature of mythic powers, but one of flesh and blood - immense flesh and raging blood, driven by a vengeance from being wronged, while Beowulf, a victorious soldier in his own right, has become increasingly troubled by the hero-myth rising up around his exploits. Beowulf's willingness to kill on behalf of Hrothgar wavers when it becomes clear that the King is more responsible for the troll's rampages than was first apparent. As a soldier, Beowulf is unaccustomed to hesitating. His relationship with the mesmerizing witch, Selma, creates deeper confusion. Swinging his sword at a great, stinking beast is no longer such a simple act. The story is set in barbarous Northern Europe where the reign of the many-gods is giving way to one - the southern invader, Christ. Beowulf is a man caught between sides in this great shift, his simple code transforming and falling apart before his eyes. Vengeance, loyalty and mercy powerfully entwine. A story of blood and beer and sweat, which strips away the mask of the hero-myth, leaving a raw and tangled tale.

I don't know how many people actually know about this movie or how many people have watched it. It was released in the States and I had to order in my dvd copy in from the US as it was nowhere to be found here in the UK. It was only at the end of last year, after Christmas that I picked up a UK copy. On blu-ray, for a fiver. What went wrong, I wonder?

It's not the best movie ever made but it is definitely one worth watching. Gerard Butler convinced as a Beowulf struggling with his own identity. Grendel's character is not just a crazed monster on a rampage for the sake of going on a rampage. There are two sides to each coin.

In this version we have a very human Beowulf confronted with all he has done in the past, what he is prepared to do now for fame and for money. Is it the right thing?

The landscape is beautifully evocative and harsh and wild and looking at it, you can appreciate why stories like Beowulf and Grendel resonated for so long in the oral history and memories of people.

I'm not going to pretend to be a scholar of the original story but I felt that the reworking of the story for this film was done with a sensitivity a lot of big Hollywood movies completely manage to miss out on.

My copy of the book Beowulf, as done by Seamus Heaney is one of my all-time favourite books of all time. He manages to capture the wild essence of the story, of heroes who walk the fine line between being a hero and villain and about monsters so terrible they haunt your waking hours.

This movie is a definite favourite too. In fact, I'm popping along to go and stick it in the player right now, to be honest!

I know some people will watch this, waiting for the in your face machismo and it's there in the various battle and action sequences but it's a slower, deeper story that lingers and makes an impression.

I love how with only a few changes and a bit of tweaking of the overall story and characters, our perceptions of the overall story changes. It's by far better than I expected and something I am happy to recommend to others to try.

Happy watching!


Neverwhere said...

Seamus Heaney's translation is fantastic, isn't it :D

Yay for you telling more people about this film!

maryom said...

Rather a silly comment but ... Have you seen the Star Trek Voyager re-telling of the Beowulf story? One by one the crew get trapped in he story on the holodeck until the monster is eventually defeated - I think by the emergency holographic doctor.