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Beowulf the epic poem Vs. Beowulf the 2007 movie

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Caladan, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. Caladan

    Caladan Agnostic Pantheist Staff Member Premium Member

    The celebrated Anglo Saxon poem has drawn several attempts at cinematic adaptation, with one of the last ones being by director Robert Zemeckis. his version has an impressive background in the sense of the people attached to it, Neil Gaiman wrote the screenplay, Anthony Hopkins plays Hrothgar, Angelina Jolie plays Grendel's mother, John Malkovich plays Unferth, Robin Wright Penn plays Queen Wealtheow.
    I enjoy Gaiman's novels, and his screenplay included some interesting take and work on the basic plot, such as making Grendel the son of Hrothgar with his mother, which unlike in the poem is played by a gorgeous woman, in a sinister turn in plot Beowulf is also seduced by her when he goes to slay her and the dragon is the son he has given her in a morbid deal they have stricken. however many of the themes in the movie, beyond entering interesting twists also divert from many of the qualities of the poem. in the poem Beowulf's character and that of Hrothgar is embodied in nobility, while in the movie Heorot, Hrothgar's and the mead-hall is portrayed as a hall for very basic and some would think shallow drinking sessions, although I have to admit that the scenes of drinking and singing have a charm about them. Beowulf is portrayed in the film as attached to sometimes basic glory-obsession, while the poem obviously expresses the many noble virtues of Beowulf, the change of plot, in which Beowulf is seduced by Grendel's mother later makes Beowufl to carry a guilt with him, and weariness, while in the poem Beowulf is an honorable leader who maintains his virtues.
    one of the best qualities of the poem, is the cultural landscape of the Danes, Geats, Swedes, and Scandinavian people, the poem while the stuff of legend is also drawing from history, and historical feuds in Scandinavia, it gives an important layer to the poem which gives it a great background and reliability beyond the narrative of the main characters. I felt this could not be captured into the film. I think one of the main issues with this timeless epic poem is to find the balance between a well constructed poetry with a great cultural background and the need to focus on the gore and fights of beowulf against the main antagonists.

    any opinions for Beowulf enthusiasts of this adaptation? do you feel its possible to do justice with this wonderful poem when it comes to films? what do you think of Gaiman's screenplay? the way Beowulf was portaryed, Hrothgar? how did you like the settings? could you relate to a Scandinavian setting and people of a millenia ago in it?
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2010
  2. Alex_G

    Alex_G Enlightner of the Senses Staff Member Premium Member

    Ah i have not seen the film, but my dad read it to me when i was young, odd choice of children story i admit :p

    Will get back to you when i do.
  3. Caladan

    Caladan Agnostic Pantheist Staff Member Premium Member

    Actually I think its perfect and ideal. :yes:

    I thought the film had many problems in living up to the qualities of the poem, despite drawing from a great human resource.
  4. Panda

    Panda 42? Staff Member Premium Member

    Possible the worst movie ever released.
  5. monta

    monta .

    I think on it's own the film had flaws, I think the cgi animation they used took away from the actors performances, making the casting of such great actors as Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winston, and John Malkovich a waste of time. Angelina Jolie's presence must have been at the studio's insistence for pull power, because she is and attractive woman and a good actor but made an unconvincing ''tarn-hag''

    The poem itself has it's origins in an oral tradition and has probably been changed a little with every telling, so the changes are not in themselves such a problem for me, but the integrity of the character of the Danish king Hrothgar is destroyed, he is portrayed as a lustful drunk, instead of the wise advisor of the poem, this means certain nuances of the poem are lost with his integrity, and his warnings of the fleeting nature of success , which is a fundamental theme of Beowulf are lost.

    I hated the film, but to be honest I didn't much care for the book either.
    enchanted_one1975 and Nepenthe like this.
  6. Caladan

    Caladan Agnostic Pantheist Staff Member Premium Member

    Yes in many ways there's some character slaying involved in the film. also a lot of tension between some of the characters. the tension between Wealtheow and Hrothgar over his affair with Grendel's mother, and later with Beowulf. while in the poem, the virtues of the characters are exalted, in the film the screenplay in great part is revolving around their flaws. in some ways it took from the idealism of the poem and gave a plot to relate to, where the human flaws and weaknesses of the characters is used in the story line, on the other hand those who are used to the honorable king Hrothgar of the poem, are now indeed faced with an old dirty man, and Heorot is a hall for the lustful attitudes of the Danes, it is a hedonistic place, while in the poem it is a place where the Queen and Hrothgar's daughter demonstrate their noble qualities, and it functions as the seat of governing of the king, and represents the Danish culture to all its fine qualities.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2010
  7. Hevenly Heathen

    Hevenly Heathen Seeker

    The movie was an okay adaptation of the story. I would watch it again, mostly for the animation, the same technique they used in Monster House, but that's all. It had better character development than other adaptations, but...
    I love reading the book. I read it to my three year old from the original, not modern English. It was part of my major in college, translating it. I also did it for Gawain and The Green Knight.
    The book for me will probably always win out, but that's more because I have given the characters my own development and life, just as Gaiman did in his adaptation.
    Caladan likes this.
  8. Caladan

    Caladan Agnostic Pantheist Staff Member Premium Member

    How did you feel about the cultural landscape in the film, the way the Danes and Geats were portrayed? about Heorot?
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2010
  9. Hevenly Heathen

    Hevenly Heathen Seeker

    I think much of the culture was stripped, that Gaiman was more concerned with humanizing everyone instead of portraying the culture. Heorot... I think it was portrayed as a Hall. Any Hall was used as the King/Chief's court, drink hall, and HQ as needed. There was raunchiness behind any Hall's wall as often as virtue. It wasn't portrayed as Hrothgar's dream or how it was in the story, but again, Gaiman wanted to get gritty.

    I did like the spin on Grendel's character, perhaps the one saving grace Gaiman contributed to the legacy of Beowulf on film.
  10. dust1n

    dust1n Zindīq

    I hated the poem. I assumed the movie would be worse.
  11. Magic Man

    Magic Man Reaper of Conversation

    I have yet to see that movie version. I have that and another one Beowulf and Grendel in my Netflix queue. The latter one stars Gerard Butler. I have always liked the poem, and, in fact, it is the reason I cringe when I hear the way the word "epic" is used these days. It was in learning about Beowulf that I learned the true meaning of "epic" (being a long story, usually a poem, about a nationalistc hero). I know words take on new meaning over time, but I can't seem to get past this.

    Anyway, I kind of assumed the movie wouldn't do the poem justice. Once I watch it, I'll report back with my thoughts.

    Actually, that sounds like a wonderful idea. I'll be having kids within the next year or so, so I'll have to keep that in mind.
  12. Caladan

    Caladan Agnostic Pantheist Staff Member Premium Member

    One of the things that gave the poem its reliability was the Scandinavian background, the lineages, the feuds, the description of funerals like that of Scyld Scefing (or Shield Shiefson) all add the layers of background and society that the peom is embodied with.

    It was a running plot with Grendel's mother and the leading heros/protagonists. Hrothgar, Beowulf, and as the end of the movie implies, also Wiglaf, have given in to her temptation and beauty.
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