Introduction Fordecades, Hollywood has adapted many best-selling, well-known books to turn intoa modern film.
While many people love these adapted modern films, there arealso people who criticize this adaptation – or I personally call this a”Hollywood fashioned movie.” Even though movies do a fair job of recreating thebook, and translating the language into easier and more modern form, this isnot without any potential risks: bad acting, slurred and indistinct dialoguebetween actors, and lack of understanding and knowledge of the original book. Thisleads to a question why are books turning into modern films? The answer issimple: simplicity and abbreviated version of a long text or book. Thesis Forinstance, one of the well-known epic poetries, Beowulf, has translated into moremodern language and adapted to many different texts as well as into films.
SinceBeowulf is known as the longest and oldest epic poem in Old English, the era ofthe Anglo-Saxon period, it is hard to recognize familiar words (that we nowknow as modern English) and is difficult for people to read and understand. Thehistory of Beowulf goes back to the Anglo-Saxon period where the poem andevents are set in Scandinavia. Beowulf was a Geat, also known as a Thane – whatis now modern-day Finland/Sweden.
He fights for the Danes, a Northern Germanictribe, also known as the Kingdom of Denmark. The concept of loyalty is thecentral theme of this poem. It focuses on Beowulf’s bold, fearless, audaciousand heroic traits as well as on his achievements and battles with demonicmonsters. Language Beingthe longest and oldest epic poem in English literature, written and composed byan unknown author during an Anglo-Saxon era, Beowulf was written in Old English– heavily inflected with Germanic vocabulary. It is different from modernEnglish we know now, making it difficult for an audience to read and understandthe poem.
Because Anglo-Saxon poetry has a tradition of oral poetry, much ofBeowulf’s material had been available for use in the oral narrative for a longtime. Beowulf is now widely taught, and it is often presented as one of themost important compositions in English literature. Fortunately, the poem was generallytranslated throughout the years and adapted to modern English. For instance,Seamus Heaney translated line by line to the original form without leaving anydetails yet using modern English. History Thepoem is a story of the supernatural and additionally a record of Anglo-Saxonhistory. The poem sets place in 6th century Denmark and Sweden (Scandinavian).The Geats belonged to Beowulf’s tribe and possessed the southern part of Swedenmeanwhile, Hrothgar was the King of Danes and his astonishing mead-hall, Heorotwas served as a palace for the King and his people.Since then, a number of halls werefound approximately around the 500s and onward; it means that any of them couldhave been Heorot.
Even though there is no proof that Beowulf was a real man,there is a significant deal of Germanic history taking in the poem. His characteristicsfit flawlessly into the setting of his society and the Anglo-Saxon era. Forexample, in Germanic Societies or in Anglo-Saxon era, which the poem took placein, there were heroic codes – it defined how a nobleman should act. Heroiccodes defined a nobleman who had strength, courage, and honor, but also loyal, generousand giving. These codes were very important, especially in a warrior/ an Anglo-Saxonera.Theme Thereare numerous differences between the poem, and the modern movie version ofBeowulf that show significant weaknesses and strengths of the movie. The movie,which was an animated version, has more drama and more focused on Beowulf’sflaws (hubris).
Its dramatic theme has separated the details and importance ofthe poem. However, the poem’s theme focuses more on loyalty. The poem reflectsthe values, qualities, motivation, and inspirations of the characters – thisgoes back to the history of Anglo-Saxon era when heroic codes existed, and itwas taken seriously. One of the examples is when Beowulf comes to help theDanes to kill Grendel, he is looking to increase his reputation and gaininghonor, however, the real motivation is to pay for his family debt – which hisfather owes to King Hrothgar.
These two families share a strong bond that goesback many years, and Beowulf is honored to lend his service to King Hrothgar.Even when he returns home, his loyalty continues to lay his loyalty to KingHygelac. When King Hygelac dies, Beowulf is offered to take his crown, yet hesincerely refuses and let Heardred (King Hygelac’s son) take the crown. Heserves the young king faithfully. Not only Beowulf’s loyalty is important, but sois Wiglaf’s – his loyalty lay to Beowulf till he dies. He serves Beowulf as aking faithfully, and he is also described as one of Beowulf’s most loyalfriends. Film Comparison Whenhe meets Grendel’s mother (after killing Grendel), he fights fearlessly. Hecuts through her neck with a blade, showing no mercy.
However, in the movie,Beowulf’s boldness is still there, but it shows his flaws more than his heroictraits. For example, when Beowulf kills Grendel – the demonic monster, hismother is seeking vengeance. She kills warriors who were asleep in mead-hall (Heorot)after celebrating the death of Grendel. Beowulf, in the movie, instead ofkilling the witch/ monster, he falls for her seductive appearance and promisesof keeping him forever King and strong and sleeps with her. The movie focuses ontheir relationship rather than Beowulf’s epic battle with the monster.
Thebattles with monsters he encounters are important because they represent whoBeowulf is – a hero. However, the film did not quite reach the expectation ofthe poem and left out significant parts that were important but added partsthat were less important such as focusing on Grendel’s mother’s appearances(played by Angelina Jolie).Comparison/Characters Beowulfis also shown as a hero who is fearless and praised for his boldness meanwhile,the movie focuses on his heroic flaws, and the relationship he has withGrendel’s mother. Also, the characters shown in the film are not suitable forthe poem – especially some of the characters are portrayed differently. Forexample, King Hrothgar is portrayed as one of the most honorable kings in thepoem meanwhile, in the movie, he is portrayed as a drunken king who loves toparty and has committed sins that could not be forgiven (such as sleeping withGrendel’s mother while he was married). Another example is appearances ofGrendel’s mother.
She is described as a horrendous monster or a witch, but sheis portrayed as this beautiful, exotic monster that seduces Beowulf. The endingof the poem and the movie are quite similar since the hero is died with dignityand honor. However, killing of the dragon in at the end of the film and thepoem is quite different.
The hero (Beowulf) finds out the dragon is his son whohe had with Grendel’s mother – he does not recognize him since he disguised asthe dragon, so he kills him. Alterations Theoverall evaluation of the movie, comparing to the poem is a letdown. It weirdlyadded scenes that were not in the poem (mentioned above) and more dramatic andsexual scenes that would catch audience’s attention. Also, it is almostimpossible to recapitulate the whole text (approximately 3190 lines) into 1 to2-hour film.
However, it is simply not appropriate enough to replace the poem. Thepoem has more details of who Beowulf is and its history of Anglo-Saxon era. Eventhough the movie has translated and made it easier for the audience tounderstand, lack of understanding and knowledge of the original poem made thefilm disappointing and not suitable to replace it. Casting Also,the actors and actresses in the movie are represented quite differently than inthe poem. Physical representations describing Beowulf in the poem coincide withthe film’s portrayal. He is played by Ray Winstone. His character, Beowulf, is physicallyattractive, strong and charming.
He charms people by telling his astonishingevents against great monsters. His stunning physical appearances attract womensuch as Queen Wealhtheow and even Grendel’s mother. Beowulf is not described asa charming hero but described rather dauntless and honorable hero in the poem –following the heroic codes which were a great importance during an Anglo-Saxonera.
Another example of differences between the film and poem is Grendel’smother, her appearances, and relationship she shares with King Hrothgar and Beowulf.The character in the film is played by Angelina Jolie – she is more seductive thanmonstrous. Her acting in the film is flawless, but her appearances and role donot coincide with the poem.
Also, Queen Wealhtheow takes a great part in thefilm, however, she does not have a key role in the poem. She is played by RobinWright. In my opinion, her role in the film is unnecessary and pointless sincehers is not as important as other characters in the film.
Critical Response AuthorAndy Orchard believes “some modern readers have failed to be impressed by Beowulf” because Beowulf’s poet produced”a perhaps surprising number of apparently critical of at least questionablecomments” on his characters. Orchard’s criticism shows he doubts the poet andhis work might need “special pleading” to prove his piece is worth for modernreaders to read. Orchard’s comments are debatable, yet Beowulf is still knownas one of the most important and fine works in English Literature.
Overall Evaluation Thefilm did a fair job of recreating the original into a “Hollywood” film. Itdefinitely had scenes that would attract an audience’s attention more than thepoem would – especially when it is written in Old English, and it is difficultfor a lot of readers to understand. However, the film succeeded in detailingthe graphics of each character even if some characters did not quite coincidewith the poem. Also, certain storylines in the film are interesting anddifferent which definitely catch audience’s attention.
However, whether themovie did a fair job of recreating the poem, it is still a letdown anddefinitely not appropriate to replace the original considering it is one of themost important works in English literature.