Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beowulf by Robert Zemeckis

Reviews of this film have focused either on the motion-capture technology, or on the controversy surrounding the shots of a nude Angelina Jolie.

The technology is imperfect and a work in progress, and the shots of Ms Jolie would be interesting only to a celebrity-fetishist.

However, I do have something to say about a particular aspect of the mythical story. Whereas aggression is celebrated as manly, lust is distinctly condemned in this film. According to Beowulf, a hero is one who is brave, and one who doesn't capitulate to a lustful moment. He may compete, he may plunder, he may kill, he may loot, he may have many wives, he may mistreat his slaves and workers, but he may not give in to a lustful temptation which brings woe upon his kingdom.

It is a rather interesting viewpoint, but one which is eminently understandable. A King's foibles are acceptable (even if they are rooted in animal-like behavior) if they bring prosperity and glory to his kingdom. His wanting of sons, his desire for immortality, and his manliness exhibited in having many queens is perfectly acceptable. But if he gives in to a temptation which is treacherous towards his people, then shame is in order.

(Can one perhaps draw a parallel to Clinton's forgivable indiscretions while he was President?)

What is also curious is that people want to believe in unblemished heroes. The pain and denial expressed by Beowulf's deputy when Beowulf tries to tell him about the fall is one of the most interesting aspects of this story. So also is the seemingly inexplicable suicide of King Hrothgar.

The Queen is shown to be in the know all along, and she is probably the most self-aware of all characters in this story.

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