Monday, 16 April 2012

Beowulf and Grendel

Beowulf and Grendel get to know each other better!.

I must admit to a lack of familiarity with Anglo-Saxon literature, so when I get a chance to see a movie loosely based on an epic poem called Beowulf by an anonymous author I’m intrigued! Apparently according to the poem this Beowulf is the hero of the Geats who were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting what is now Gotaland in Sweden. The king of the Danes, a chap called Hrothgar, summons our Scandinavian warrior to help him out with a wee problem he was having with a nasty piece of work called Grendel, seemingly a monstrous character who attacks and kills people with his bare hands. According to the poem Beowulf slays Grendel and then proceeds to slay his mother after which he returns home and becomes King of the Geats. After ruling the Geats for fifty years up pops a dragon, which he manages to slay but he is fatally wounded and dies from his injuries. You would think that at his age he would have left it to a much younger man?

Gerard Butler as Beowulf.
Right, after this wee history lesson I’d best get back to the film, as I said Beowulf and Grendel (2005) is loosely based on this ancient poem. Filmed in Iceland and directed by the Canadian film director Sturla Gunnarsson the films narrative does indeed deviate from the poem, the monster is now depicted as a Troll, played by the Icelandic actor Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson you may have seen in Jar City (2006) and there are some additional characters including a rather attractive witch called Selma portrayed by Sarah Polley (Splice 2009) and by the way your be pleased to know I have not given away the ending because it’s different from the one I described. Also included on the cast list are Gerard Butler, who seems to appear all over the place at the moment, as Beowulf and Stellan Skarsgasrd as the Danish king Hrothgar.

This historical curiosity has some well-staged action sequences, but it’s bleak and cold looking mainly due to the inhospitable landscape and Iceland’s unrelenting weather. The main problem is the dialog, which is very difficult to understand at times. There’s a certain amount of madness about the whole thing, so much so you could imagine Werner Hertzog directing it!  

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