‹ rotational

Beowulf the movie

August 19, 2005 ・ Blog

I’m totally ignorant about new film news, so I’ve only just heard that there are actually two films being made based on the Beowulf. Wow, I had the same idea only a few months ago! Bet they won’t have such great music ideas though.

Ray Winstone is to play Beowulf in one of them, a choice that’s probably informed by his barbarian-esque character in the recent (and dull, despite a good set of actors) King Arthur. The other film, called Beowulf and Grendel, has a load of people in it I’ve never heard of, but appears to have some Scandinavians (if the names are anything to go by), so that will be nice.

I’ve changed my mind somewhat on whether a film should be made about the story, though. I’m concerned that these efforts will get mired in the literalism that film usually imposes on stories. For me, Beowulf was about the language (Seamus Heaney’s, in the translation I read), the dreamlike nature of the encounters with the monsters, and the imagination. It’s about the fear of what lies among the dark trees outside the light of the campfire and complex notions of kinship, duty and life values. Most film-makers can’t evoke such subtle and complex themes, especially those that are presumably attracted to this story by the fight scenes.

And besides, I don’t want to see somebody else’s rendition of Grendel’s mother or the dragon (which presumably Beowulf and Grendel will not include) – they’re elemental creatures, designed by the storyteller to exist deep inside the listener’s imagination. The literal nature of some CGI or animatronic thing can only be a let down from that deep level of visualisation, and I fear that from then on their filmic forms will intrude into my personal visions.

Which is all beating down somewhat on something I’ve never seen and probably isn’t even finished yet. Ultimately, however, I think that the story of Beowulf deserves a lot of respect.

EDIT: Oh hold on, the Ray Winstone film is being co-scripted and co-executive produced by Neil Gaiman. Maybe it has a slight chance, but by Gaiman’s own admission, this is a film film not a poem film. Oh and Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother?!