Beowulf and Grendel

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: June 26, 2007 | Publication: | Author: Hrafnkell
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I finally got a chance to see the 2005 Sturla Gunnarsson film Beowulf and Grendel. I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum, but overall, it was a good film, a "good butt" movie as my brother would say, and a 7 on the 0-10 scale. It was a little disjointed in places and I am not sure if that was from poor editing or a sign that Gunnarsson was not certain at all times where he was going with the film. The dialog was good and the actors excellent, particularly Gerard Butler and Sarah Polley, and of course, my favorite, Stellan Skarsgård as King Hrothgar. The screenplay was generally true to the saga, though of course it had to "fill out" the story or it would have made for a 20 minute film. The general attitude of the filmmakers were that the original story was a Pagan story that some Christian monk had written down and gotten all wrong. I think that is a fair assumption to make, and their treatment in particular of Heathen religion was fair and sympathetic. They showed the king's mead hall being blooded by a gothi (ON goði) a Heathen priest, and if anyone came across looking foolish it was Saint Brendan, the missionary who washes up on shore and sings the praises of his God to Hrothgar, who asks, "Is he any good with trolls?" The attitude of Beowulf towards Brendan is suitably disdainful (watching a baptism in a river he says, "They swim because they are afraid") and happily he never makes the mistake of conversion. Hrothgar, in true pragmatic Norse fashion, ends up wearing both a hammer and a cross "because you never know" but that, at least, seems to have some historical foundation. Finally, the scenery was truly breathtaking. Filmed in Iceland instead of Denmark (to which place the screenwriter, Andrew Rai Berzins, professed never to have been) it presents us with a stark, beautiful world. If it is not the forests and moors of Denmark, it is at least visually stunning and a lovely backdrop to such a story. One final note on detail that I particularly enjoyed: In LOTR when they built the set for Meduseld, Jackson was hailed for finding such a remote, beautiful spot at the mercy of the elements, but all of Beowulf and Grendel seemed to be filmed at such a spot. Moreover, the interior of the mead hall was really the interior of the mead hall, whereas in LOTR the interior scenes of Meduseld were filmed on a soundstage as the exterior set was a hollow shell used, if I recall correctly, for storage. This lent an unparalleled sense of realism to the scenes filmed in Hrothgar's hall. It is really the wind battering at the walls, and they are really in that cold, drafty place sheltered (barely) from the elements and certainly to no greater degree than Norsemen on a similar spot would have been fifteen hundred years ago. I applaud Gunnarsson for this decision. And I applaud Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, the Heathen high priest of the Heathen community in Iceland for an excellent soundtrack.