May 28, 2004

Therefore my tears flow both for you and for my unhappy self

I went and saw Troy last night and came out feeling well pleased.
Is it a great movie? No.
Did it make me feel any emotion other than ‘That was pretty damned cool.’? Again, no.
But boy, did I have a good time. When me and my brother were little, we made this movie a thousand times over in our heads. We mapped out the castles, planned strategies, laid siege to them. Last summer when I was in Greece I walked along the wall that surrounds old Rhodes, my imagination going crazy as I remembered all those castles and fortifications we’d built in our heads, and now I was walking in amongst them. New Zealand is a very young country, we have no great ruins or castles, nothing older than 200 years, really. I went to ancient Mycenae and saw the city that was lost, and I recreated how it was in my mind. This film doesn’t recreate the awe I felt then, but it taps into the same vien in my mind.
Troy is a war film, not a historical epic. It’s been slated for straying from The Iliad, but to be honest, I’ve read The Iliad three different times, each time reading a different interpretation of the original text. I don’t think this film strays much further from the original than each individual reading took liberties. So the Gods aren’t characters in the film – so what? I really don’t think there would have been a credible way to make the Gods active participants in the story without making it feel like an episode of Hercules. The best way to represent the Gods was the way they chose to: By having them be an important influencing factor in the lives of the people of that era.
I’m constantly saying to my friends that an original thing to try in films would be to have a film in which there are no ‘good guys’ and no ‘bad guys’. Just two disparate groups that have different objectives that are in conflict with one another. That way, you would have a choice to root for a different side, you wouldn’t be forced by the editing and the score and the script to be wanting just one side to win. Troy is not that film, but for the first hour or so, it’s close. Eventually the film sides with the Trojans, but when the first battle began, I honestly didn’t know which side I was hoping would win- and I loved it! Each character has their own motivations and flaws- the film allowed Achilles to be evil, Paris to be a coward, and Priam to be a fool. Hector was a little too heroic, but doesn’t the hero win? For all the complaints that the plot was shoehorned into a Hollywood shape, the ending is seriously not the way we’ve been trained to expect Hollywood films to end.
Some of the acting was a bit hokey, as was some of the dialogue (although I liked Achilles’ speech about how the Gods envy the mortals), but I knew that going in. I went for a war film, and that’s what I got. Would it have been better if I’d cared more about the characters, if there’d been an actual heart to the story, as there was in Return of the King? Absolutely, and that would have been a pleasant surprise. But I was very happy with what I got, and as war films go, it’s fucking excellent.


2 thoughts on “Therefore my tears flow both for you and for my unhappy self

  1. Don’t think you and I saw the same film but I guess I didn’t like it. Not so much because it strayed a lot from the Iliad (although I do think it should have stayed closer) but because I didn’t even think it was a very good war film. It was just a bit too soap opera. Actually, not so much opera as much as sing song around the piano.

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