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Beowulf movie
Posted: 29 July 2017 12:18 AM   [ Ignore ]
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HWAET! Last night I watched the 2007 movie “Beowulf” , which until a day or two ago, I didn’t even know existed.  The movie was made, I understand, using technologies or techniques of which I am thoroughly unaware (“motion capture”?).  I found it, like the curate’s egg, good in parts. The battle with the dragon could have been lifted from a movie entitled “Beowulf vs. Godzilla”, and ended most unsatisfactorily, with the multi-ton creature’s heart (only about the same size as that of a horse) being torn out by Beowulf, using only one hand.  This blatant lack of any vestige of anatomical or physiological verisimilitude was too much for me, though I must admit there’s no reason to expect dragons to be built like everyday creatures, or to function like them (perhaps I’m doing the moviemakers an injustice, and it was actually the creature’s thyroid).
Grendel was great --- at times, almost inspiring sympathy --- and Grendel’s mother was breathtaking.
Of course, there’s no reason why moviemakers should be expected to be faithful to their source material; nevertheless, this viewer, at least, can’t help feeling a bit resentful, when the producers take too many liberties with the original. I don’t think this movie will at all stimulate public interest in the original Beowulf; nor do I think it was ever meant to.
Re-reading this post, I am compelled to admit that it’s got nothing to with word origins, and I shan’t be in the least surprised or offended if Dave erases it.

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Posted: 29 July 2017 01:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Lionello, To save your skin I’ve justified your post by homing in on just one word HWAET.  See here and note that it shouldn’t be used with an exclamation mark ;-):

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/listen-beowulf-opening-line-misinterpreted-for-200-years-8921027.html

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Posted: 29 July 2017 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks for the generous thought, Skibberoo....... But that’s only Dr. Walkden’s view, with which lots of other learned persons disagree. Dr. Walkden may be talking through his hat, as many respected academics make a habit of doing.

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Posted: 29 July 2017 03:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Glad you brought this up, lionello, I’ve often often wondered if Dave ever saw it and if so what he thought of it. (If I’ve asked this before let the triple peal resound and let hill to hill echo it to the surrounding vales.)

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Posted: 29 July 2017 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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We have discussed the Walkden article on hwæt multiple times. The latest time, with link to past discussions, is here. For those interested, I’d particularly recommend Peter Buchanan’s blog post on the flaws in Walkden’s statistical analysis. In short, Walkden’s hypothesis is interesting and has merit to it, but I’m not confident in his conclusions.

As to the Beowulf movie (I’m assuming we’re talking about the Robert Zemeckis film), it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. If I recall correctly, I wasn’t much impressed, but I liked the depiction of Grendel—even though they made him speak; his silence in the original poem is important. The sexy Grendel’s mother was absurd. And I found the motion-capture techniques visually disturbing (uncanny valley).

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Posted: 29 July 2017 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Here‘s a direct link to that previous discussion (in which Walkden himself took part), and since I didn’t mention it there, I’ll mention here that I once saw an old translation (from the ’30s?) that rendered hwæt “What ho!”

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Posted: 29 July 2017 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The sexy Grendel’s mother was absurd.

I don’t agree at all. She was a water-demon, after all. Now in all of literature, demons who set out to seduce human beings, assume an appropriate form for the job. This demon seduced first Hrothgar, then later Beowulf. What form could she possibly take, more appropriate than that of a sexy woman?

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Posted: 29 July 2017 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The seduction of Hrothgar is another invention of the movie.

While the poem does hint at some sexuality as at one point in their fight she is astride Beowulf—more rape than seduction—she is described as monstrous, not beautiful.

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Posted: 29 July 2017 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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My favorite translation: “And Seamus Heaney famously translates it as “so.” He is the one who started it all.

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Posted: 29 July 2017 10:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The seduction of Hrothgar is another invention of the movie

Well, I thought you were talking about the movie (I certainly was). The movie’s the only place where Grendel’s mother appears as as a sexy woman, and there’s nothing absurd about that at all.

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Posted: 30 July 2017 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Well, there is if you’ve read the original.  Are you saying one should evaluate a movie without any reference whatever to the source material?

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Posted: 30 July 2017 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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 Grendel has a couple of lines of OE.

“Ic nat daemon eam.”

“Hwæt eart þu?”

There are a few other bits and bobs of obsolete language to add colour. Thanes. Swife me!  Pintel.

Swive dates from 15th century, though.

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Posted: 30 July 2017 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Are you saying one should evaluate a movie without any reference whatever to the source material?

No, not at all. But first of all, I would evaluate a movie with reference to itself.  If I’m making a movie in which two of the protagonists are seduced by a demon, I will have the demon appear to these characters in a seductive guise, such as a beautiful woman. Nothing else would carry conviction. I don’t know in what form Grendel’s mother appeared to Beowulf in the original poem, but I doubt if it was much of a sexual turn-on, and for the purposes of the film, that wouldn’t be of any use at all.

Is a person making a movie based on a legend such as Beowulf, under a moral obligation to stick as closely as humanly possible to the original?

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Posted: 31 July 2017 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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lionello - 30 July 2017 07:40 AM

Is a person making a movie based on a legend such as Beowulf, under a moral obligation to stick as closely as humanly possible to the original?

As “close as humanly possible”? No. But there comes a point where changes fundamentally alter the story. If you’re making a movie about a demon that seduces the two protagonists, then you’re not making Beowulf. But I’d say the greater sin is that the changes Zemeckis makes are dull and unoriginal. It’s hack Hollywood writing and producing at it’s worst:

Producer 1: “We need sex! Let’s get Angelina Jolie to play the demon.
Producer 2: “Great idea! She can have sex with Beowulf.”
Producer 3: “Why don’t we work in a paternity angle. ‘Luke, I am your father.’”
Producer 1: “Yeah, let’s make Hrothgar Grendel’s father.”

(Grendel has no father in the poem, but is from the line of Cain. Lineage and the continuation of one’s family line is a major theme in the poem. Hrothgar and Beowulf become failed rulers because they don’t found a dynasty—Hrothgar has sons, but he doesn’t secure their ascent to the throne, which is usurped by an uncle; Beowulf is childless.)

An example of a more interesting adaptation is Beowulf & Grendel. (It’s a problematic movie in many ways too, so I’m not necessarily recommending it, but it does make adaptive choices that bring to light some themes that are buried in the poem.) In it, Grendel is a neanderthal-like creature, the last of his line (save his mum), who were hunted to extinction for being different—engaging in post-colonial interpretation that is all the rage in scholarship today. The film-makers work in sex too, but do so by introducing a new female character, one who has befriended Grendel and in addition to supplying sex, supplies the viewer with an avenue into Grendel’s psyche.

As Horace says in Ars Poetica:

publica materies priuati iuris erit, si
non circa uilem patulumque moraberis circuit,
nec verbo verbum curabis reddere fidus
interpres, nec desilies imitator in artum,
unde pedem proferre pudor vetet aut operis lex.

(Public domain material will become your own property, if you do not continue around the wide open, common track; neither should you be a faithful interpreter and take the trouble to render word for word; nor should you imitate and jump headlong into a strait, from which either timidity or the mode of the work might forbid you to retreat.)

[ Edited: 31 July 2017 04:26 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 31 July 2017 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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If I’m making a movie in which two of the protagonists are seduced by a demon, I will have the demon appear to these characters in a seductive guise, such as a beautiful woman. Nothing else would carry conviction.

Fair point, but on the larger issue I agree with Dave.  Make a sexy-monster movie or make Beowulf, take your pick.  (Frankly, I would have thought sexy stuff wasn’t necessary what with all that violence, but I am not a Hollywood producer.)

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Posted: 31 July 2017 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Speaking of adaptations (sort of) of Beowulf, who’s read Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead and/or seen the movie adaptation The Thirteenth Warrior?  What are your opinions?

I may have asked this before in some previous discussion of Beowulf; apologies if so, but I don’t recall any substantial discussion.

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