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TIFF Report: Beowulf & Grendal Review

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews
Article Date: September 17, 2005 | Publication: | Author: Mack

Posted by: admin

I'm sure if I had told either of the Wonder Twins I had an opportunity to see a film pertaining to the poem 'Beowulf' and did not go they would have strung me up and found interesting ways to make amends for my shortcoming. Keeping that in mind as I book my schedule this year I decided to give it a go and see what director Sturla Gunnarsson and his cast would do with the famed poem.

The kingdom of King Hrothgar [Stellan Skarsgård] is being terrorized by the troll, Grendal. Grendal is seeking revenge for the death of his father and the hands of Hrothgar. With superior strength and size Grendal cuts through Hrothgars men like wheat and lays waste to the land. Desperate for help, Hrothgar calls for the aid of the great warrior, Beowulf [Gerard Butler], from Gaetland [which is now Sweden]. Beowulf gathers a small band of warriors with him and embarks on a journey to help Hrothgar. But his plans are foiled by a creature that will only take revenge upon those who have wronged him. Grendal will not engage in battle with Beowulf and his men at first. It is only upon meeting the seductive witch, Selma [Sarah Polley], that he begins to understand his supposed foe and all things will come to their inevitable end.

Having never read the poem that inspired this movie I cannot account for the accuracy of this film compared to the text. However, during the Q&A the scriptwriter did say that they took enormous liberties with the text and they felt what they were presenting in Bewoulf & Grendal was the 'bones' of the poem. There thoughts on this movie is that this could be the story that inspired the poem. My understanding of the nature of the poem is also limited. But Gunnarsson and guests did say that the poem has an aural history of 200 or so years, was committed to sheepskin, disappeared for 500 years and then was found in a burnt out English barn. I also understand though that poem has a devout and loyal readership. So the movie itself was inspired by the poem and made into the kind of story that could have inspired the poem. Follow?

Filmed on location in Iceland you've got to be pretty daft to screw up filming such gorgeous landscape. Iceland is breathtakingly beautiful and hostile at the same time. Gunnarsson recalled the number of base camps and vehicles lost to the weather but its hostility lends to create the appropriate atmosphere this film needs as the chain of events unfold in the story. A harsh and unforgiving land compare favorably with a harsh and unforgiving foe ravaging the ranks of the Danes. The production design was impressive as well though I did find the prostetic body suits on Grendal and his father a wee bit hoaky and obvious. Liberties were also taken with the dialogue in the movie. For obvious reasons old English just wouldn't be cricket since no one would understand what is being said.

The opening sequence with a young Grendal by the side of his dead father ends in startling fashion. It is hard to say you want more action out of the film when it is bound by such revered text. But the sequences themselves are done well. There are plenty of bodies on spears and an arm is severed at the joint with the shoulder in self-inflicted and gruelling manner.

The movie itself though stands as pretty common fare. At the end of the film the beast has been defeated, so has another creature that comes with no explanation - at all! She just shows up and starts killing. Beowulf leaves will an understanding of how much nonsense there is with revenge and how petty little quarrels can blow up and have damning consquences. All in all it was a pretty standard film that will likely infuriate devotees to the poem and give the rest of us who know nothing of it only a muddy interpretation of it. Kind of like watching a made for tv Shakesperean movie then expecting to pass your English test the next day.


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