Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Friday, September 29, 2006

Allele - the Mark of Cain

Allele - The Mark of Cain

I just saw a tremendous little film which I'd like to recommend. It was quite excellent.


The film itself was called Beowulf and Grendel. It deviated significantly from the epic poem, but in a way which I felt was quite ingenious and quite well done. That is the plot of the film was not significantly weaker than that of the poem itself, though it was very different in execution and emphasis from the original poem.

When I first saw Grendel in the film the line that immediately ran back to my mind from the poem was the description of Grendel as (paraphrase) "being of the line and curse of Cain, of the mark of Cain." The film itself also explored, and I thought rather well in many respects, the tensions in northern Europe as Christianity was overlapping and overwhelming paganism. In the poem it was Beowulf himself who was the new Christian, or in many respects, as regards his warrior culture, the Christian-pagan hybrid. Beowulf, in the poem was the self-sacrificial hero and exemplar of both Christ and the pagan warrior ethos of the Geat.

In the film however Beowulf remains, until the very end, both skeptic and yet obvious exemplar of Christian virtues. He must kill Grendel to save the Danes and stop the slaughter, but he also empathizes with and understands Grendel's rage and attempts to correct past injustices. Beowulf also seemed to understand that Grendel hunted those he considered his tormentors but harmed no one he considered innocent. Beowulf tries on several occasions to convince Grendel to merely leave the area and never return. But Grendel would not.

One thing I noticed was that the Geats, upon arriving at the hall and trading insults with the Danes, were thirteen in number. An obvious reference to Christ and his twelve Apostles. I'll have to recheck my copy of the poem and see if that is indeed a direct reference from the poem. If it is then it is a very interesting analogy between the Warrior Band and the future King of the Geats, and the Apostles and the King of the Jews. It's been a long time since I analyzed the poem Beowulf, although I recently re-read it, though not for analysis but just to enjoy the poetry, but the metaphors are extremely interesting. I'll have to look up those references and see what they imply.

In some way the film was far too much a modern interpretation. The writers and filmmakers could not resist splattering the film with modern curses and language which gutteralized (in the widest sense) the otherwise well-spoken language of the film and the poem. Another criticism I have is that the film paid far too little attention to the poetry of the epic in both descriptive terms and in terms of the dialogue between characters. Had it retained the far higher literary language of the poem then the film would have been tremendously good. As it was it was merely good, but extremely well done compared to most modern works on such subject matter.

The cinematography was astoundingly superb, as were the sets and locales, and the acting was very solid and well executed. I could imagine the characters as real people in a real setting. A very harsh and brutally cold and tough environment. The actual appearance of the film was beautiful. All in all I highly recommend this film. Even with the obvious deficits, it was still a very enjoyable and beautiful work.

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