Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I'm reading a kids' retelling of the Iliad with my eighth graders right now. Last year I read Black Ships Before Troy and this year I'm using The Trojan War. So far I like this year's version better; it seems easier for the kids to follow and understand. Less emphasis on the funeral pyres, which got to be almost a joke last year when I was reading Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling.

I just watched the movie Troy. While I feel sure my kids would enjoy it, obviously I can't show it to them, since it's rated R, and deservedly so.

I enjoyed seeing the places where the filmmakers changed and adapted the story. The most important difference is that the Hollywood version completely eliminates the supernatural element of the story. They do show the desecration of the temple of Apollo, and some characters are alarmed by this; Briseis is shown to be some kind of a believer in the gods; several characters, including Priam, refer to the gods as forces in human life. However, both Hector and Achilles appear to mock the idea that the gods have anything to do with people, and certainly there is none of the interplay between what's going on with the immortals and what's happening on earth that is constant in Homer.

Beyond that, there are many places where the movie takes liberties with the story. Several characters die who aren't supposed to until much later. Some survive who are supposed to die. Achilles seems more of a tortured hero in the movie than he is in the book; Homer makes him seem a bit of a spoiled brat and a mama's boy, but the Brad Pitt Achilles cries over Hector's body, which he just got done desecrating. There are also some misty eyes over the mention of Achilles' father. (Edit: turns out the conversation between Priam and Achilles over Hector's body - including the references to Achilles' dear old dad - is pretty much as Homer wrote it.)

I don't know what soldiers of this time period looked like but I have a hard time imagining that they wore the combination medieval knight/Roman soldier garb shown here. But hey, all the guys look really good, so I guess that's what counts. I did like the way you could see the Trojans watching from the top of the wall. I talked to my students about that, and how the whole concept of warfare was completely different from today.

In all, I found this movie entertaining, but the violence is grotesque and there are several scantily-clad ladies on view. Not for eighth-graders.


Anonymous said...

I like your comparison here between the movie adaptation and the story! I bought the Sutcliff book as a read-aloud for ancient history. We haven't gotten that far... It was recommended, but after my brief page-through I have a hard time seeing it as something a 6-year-old would grasp. Then again she listened to all the 'Just So' stories, which have lots of challenging vocabulary etc. Have you read Geraldine McCaughrean's Odyssey? It's another recommended read.

Ruth said...

No, I haven't read that one.