It was possible that our expectation of this movie has been reduced to minimal, thus we were able to be pleasantly surprised. Walking into the theatre I was expecting something similar to Independence Day, battle scenes and eye candies, but nonetheless a butchered Homer saga. I didn¡¯t expect it to be interesting, and thought provocative (somewhat).
The battle scenes made me long for Lord of the Rings again. It was not as gorgeous and as well made as LOTR. However, Achilles armor kept on reminding me of the Elves. Their elegant lines and curvy shields. Thanked to education provided by LOTR¡¯s extended edition DVD, I was able to notice the markedly square lines used throughout Troy army while the Greeks seemed to be uniformly fond of circles and curves.
I didn¡¯t care too much about either of those love stories the movie added to lighten up the original plots, let it be Helen-Paris or Chryseis-Achilles. I was, however, amazed at how much more interesting it became when those quarrelsome Gods had been purposely left out of this war. Suddenly everyone¡¯s action started to have meaning and every decision a purpose. Brad Pitt¡¯s Achilles was actually likeable, and Eric Bana¡¯s Hector was my favorite by far. Both of them were defiance of the Gods. Is that why they were admired through the generations? Us humans pretending to love the gods but secretly admiring the ones that dared to say no to them?
¡°The gods are envious of us because our mortality gave every moment meaning which they could never have.¡± I first learned of this point of view from the book The Fall of a Sparrow, where the professor taught his classic class that Odysseus chose to remain mortal and to return to his wife over staying with a goddess and to have an eternal life, preciously because of this reason that death defines life. Because we would all die, thus everything we were able to achieve as living creatures turned to gold, precious and meaningful. When I heard the same line delivered by Brad Pitt¡¯s Achilles, I wondered who stole from whom, or where this point of view originated. I remember when I first told Gui this line, she laughed, ¡°that is such a human thing to say.¡± We were not gods, therefore we couldn¡¯t fathom what the gods really think of themselves and what do they hold dear to their hearts. But this is at the heart of the matter, isn¡¯t it? The fact that Iliad was so hard to get through maybe was because the purposeless of the gods described by Homer. As a human, how would he know what the gods were really like? His creation and imagination remained markedly human. Thus the quarrelsome gods with eternity to kill, they played with humans for entertainment.
The movie¡¯s godlessness gave Iliad a human face to every event. I started to see every battle and turn of event in a new light.
One thing that really irritated me was the voice over at the beginning and ending of the movie, supposedly delivered by Odysseus(Boromir!). Both were making one and the same point, that some names were carved into history while most others were forgotten. It was all right with me that if the director was trying to tell us that wars largely exists to serve the ego of a few, there was no other meaning whatsoever. But I think the movie could have been a lot more interesting and subtle without this kind of slogan shouting. For example, before Achilles decided to go to Troy with the Greek army, his mom told him that going to Troy would mean the end of his life but it would also guarantee his number 1 hero status on the history billboard, staying home would mean a happy and fulfill life but he would be forgotten by history. Achilles decision to go could mean he longed for the number 1 spot on the billboard, but it could also mean he didn¡¯t buy it. He didn¡¯t believe the gods could determine his fate for him before he even left home. He went because he intended to show the gods wrong, that he could win himself the glory AND he would return unharmed.
But with all the emphasis on glory and remembrance, this possibility of interpretation was lost in the thumping of chests by armies of Homo sapiens.
Another moment that I found fascinating was when Hector had the far sight to recognize divisions among the Greeks and objected attacking them, but he still couldn¡¯t resist the temptation on the battle field when a weaker ¡°Achilles¡± appeared. He was visibly excited. As rational and peace loving as Hector was, he could not escape the spell of war, the sweet temptation of winning. Of course, as Gui pointed out that as he later confessed that he had dreamed of the final battle before, it could be as simple as him recognizing the moment and embracing his fate. But I¡¯d like to imagine otherwise and I¡¯m grateful the movie didn¡¯t shout some slogans here to ruin that possibility. To err is human, and inperfection makes one more loveable.
Quite a few critics complained about the music. I found myself loving them. Especially the Asian minor folklore, the female vocal echoed through the scene without any instrumental sound to interfere. Like the fierce wind blowing over Hindu Kush, that eternal sounding voice chilled one¡¯s heart.
I myself is still laboring through the thick Iliad on my nightstand. But now I know I could look through the gods quarrel and see the humans, finally.