Iliad paper Essay Example
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Iliad paper Essay
The beauty of Helen of Troy is known to even the youngest children, as she continues to be used today as an example of paramount physical perfection. When the movie Troy came out in 2004, it may have appeared to some as another way to insert the latest Hollywood beauty into the role of the most beautiful woman in history. However, it is Achilles, played by Brad Pitt, twice voted the sexiest man alive by People magazine, whose physicality is on display to a far greater degree than the beautiful Helen. As one of the major stars of the film, Achilles, with his well-defined physique and overwhelming fighting ability, he helps the film take many Homeric elements and yet create a movie completely modern in its execution. Hollywood’s habit of revising past works of literature certainly comes into play in Troy, which borrows from the Iliad, as well as the Odyssey, and even the work of Roman author Virgil. The film captures much of the intense action of the epic poem, but fails to remain faithful to any particular work – Iliad paper Essay introduction. The finished product is an action-packed film with star power and romance, but lacking in any significance regarding history or literature. The film only loosely captures any of the Homeric themes and stories, and fails to even try to capture the historical accuracy gleaned through archeological expeditions and centuries of study. As it is the center to the plot of both works, the depiction of the Trojan War is greatly different in the movie than Homer’s story; both works possess completely different time frames, different battles and outcomes; and unlike the poem, the film Troy lacks any intervention by the gods into the lives of the characters, relying instead on the ideals and abilities of humans to perpetuate the action.
When Troy came out in 2004, directed by Wolfgang Peterson, it was one of the most expensive films of all time. The director, known for creating fictional movies based on historical events, like the Revolutionary War in The Patriot, is also known for taking creative liberties with historical events. History and literature, often difficult to adapt into film, either out of time constraints, costs, or the simple limits of filmmaking, have no real place in Troy, other than the fact the story is one of the most well-known myths of ancient times. Peterson’s creation is one of the latest instances of Hollywood disregarding the historical and literary past, and passing it off as an idea merely “inspired” by the original story. The movie seems to take elements of Homer’s Iliad and tidbits of historical fact, sprinkling it with movie-making magic and a cast that looks far better than it acts. In Troy, Peterson not only disregards the researched history of the Trojan War, as a story not completely known and only understood through archaeology and accounts by such men as Homer and later Virgil, but also leaves out many important elements of Homer’s original story, modernizing it and robbing the original story of much of its impact in exchange for the formulaic conventions of Hollywood.
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In Homer’s Iliad, the Trojan War had already been raging for nine years, while in the movie Troy, the action of the war takes only a few weeks. In a nod to the short attention spans that seem to dictate the American movie-viewing public, each of the main catalysts for the action in Homer’s story takes place during these few weeks, rather than stretched out over years. In Homer’s version, King Menelaus survived the war and returned to Sparta to live with Helen. However, in the movie, Hector kills Menelaus on the very second day of the fight, and the “kidnapped” beauty remains with her kidnapper, whom she loves despite his cowardice. On day three in the movie, Hector kills Achilles’ young protégé, Patroclus, in a scene that differed greatly from the melee that ensued in the poem during and after Patroclus’ death. The day after his close friend died, Achilles kills Hector and drags his body back to the Greek camp. Achilles then gives the Trojans twelve days to hold Hector’s funeral, and then the final battle ensues where Achilles is killed. The events of the war according to Homer’s story took almost a decade, while they take place in only a few weeks in the movie. However, this is just one of the many Hollywood elements that turn Homer’s story into something uniquely modern in tone and message, turning a fantastic myth about gods, complexity of human existence, and heroic action into a story about men, desire, and the futility of war.
Where Homer’s story portrayed the Greeks and the Trojans as real, flawed, and lacking any real moral superiority over the other, the film uses Hollywood clichés to portray the Trojans as largely good, the Greeks as largely bad, with a handful of noticeable exceptions on either side. For example, Paris is still portrayed as a coward in the film, but by the end of the film he seems redeemed, keeps Helen as his own, and his actions against Achilles are not seen as the act of a coward, but rather the inevitable actions of war. On the side of the Greeks, Agamemnon and Menelaus are depicted as almost cartoonish in their bad behavior and poor leadership, despite amassing great armies and large kingdoms. And in a most Hollywood way, Hector is portrayed in the movie as nearly perfect, possessing great courage and honor that rivals Achilles, despite being portrayed as more human in the poem. When Hector and Achilles face off in the poem, Hector tries to negotiate for his life and even runs from Achilles multiple times before being tricked by the gods into fighting him. However, in the movie, Hector is courageous to the last, and merely asks for a promise by Achilles that the loser be given a proper burial. In his defiant despair, Achilles refuses. The parallels between Achilles and Hector are far more obvious in the movie, largely due to the fact that they are both portrayed as men, great men, but nonetheless, men. The fact that they fight each other seems to come with the underlying tone that otherwise they would be friends. This is uniquely modern and seems to be the filmmakers’ message that war wastes the best of men instead of making them greater. The peace festival at the start of the film and Hector’s efforts throughout the movie to preserve peace is certainly a modern line of thought, especially at a time when America wages a war that many see as unjust and unnecessary. To the warriors of Homer, war is a necessary way of life where honor and glory are won for men, often at the wish of the gods. It seems that in the movie, Achilles is the lone proponent of this philosophy and practices it well. Achilles’ abilities and ideas in the poem prove that he is more than a common man and shares a godly lineage, though this is one of the most glossed-over facts in the entire movie.
One of the most glaring omissions in the movie as compared to the poem, as well as Greek literary tradition, is the lack of gods and goddesses in the action. As the offspring of the goddess Thetis, Achilles is descended from the gods, yet in the movie even the scenes with his mother are left uniquely human and leave little hints of anything supernatural. There are few hints in the movie to suggest that the gods or goddesses have any influence over the events, even though they are continually worshipped and discussed by the faithful, especially the Trojans that worship Apollo. When Achilles shows his contempt and desecrates the temple of the Trojans, he fears not their wrath. This could be the filmmakers modern secularism supplanting Homer’s emphasis on the gods and goddesses as dictators of the human condition. However, even as the gods and goddesses are continuously discussed in the film, they are continually in the action in Homer’s poem and are instrumental in choosing sides and affecting outcomes. The king and queen of gods, Zeus and Hera, each play roles in the poem, as Zeus helps the Trojans at the request of Thetis, and Hera seeks to defeat the Trojans, largely do to the contempt she holds for them. Hera, with the help of Athena, aids the Greeks in their efforts, as each share a deep hatred for the Trojans. Even when Priam sneaks to plead with Achilles in the poem, he is accompanied by Hermes at the request of Zeus. In the movie, these interesting subplots are completely absent and the gods are conspicuously absent. While this could merely be modern filmmakers trying to show that human activity supersedes any mystical deities, it robs the film of the sense of the fantastic that is in the poem. Despite all the other additions and subtractions the film made from the Iliad, the lack of deities is the change that affects it the most, as the gods and goddesses were behind every great action taken, communed with the mortals, and were even responsible for guiding the arrow into Achilles’ heel. In the movie, no longer is Achilles the kin of gods, but just a talented man in search of glory and immortality on the battlefield.
While the Iliad ends with King Priam asking Achilles for the body of his son back, Troy continues on with the story, again loosely taking elements of the Odyssey and Virgil’s Aenid to fill in the gaps. This includes putting Achilles, who had been killed before its creation, into the Trojan horse, which is nowhere to be found in the Iliad. In the movie, Achilles is also killed after the horse enters the city walls, which is not loyal to the original story, even though his death by arrow is loyal, including the final scene of the great warrior collapsing with an arrow stuck in his heel. Achilles, guided by his love for Breseis, succumbs to Paris’ arrow without being able to depend himself or fight properly as honor would dictate, though he knows his fate. In the movie, and especially in a modern world where Greek concepts of heroism are foreign, Paris is allowed to escape the city with Helen and presumably live a good life. In Homeric terms, this is patently absurd, as the whole underlying theme of the Iliad, as well as the Odyssey, is heroic action and honor. Helen does not end up with Paris in Homer’s poem, and the ending of Troy is nothing but a Hollywood ending, even if most of the likeable characters still died. The fact that Paris and Helen are the ones left at the end of the movie shows that the filmmakers chose to make a modernized love story instead of Homer’s vision, though even that story is weak and not very believable. Devoid of Homer’s mythology, historical or literary accuracy, and lacking any real drawing points except for chiseled actors and expensive special effects, Troy is guiltier than most films of historical fiction of lacking cultural significance and remains a mediocre film at best. Not only in quality, scope, and sincerity, Homer’s Iliad is far greater as a historical document and a work of art than the movie that was inspired by it.