Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Am sitting and watching Troy for the nth time. Wolfgang Peterson's rendition of Homer's epic poem. Each time I watch this movie one fact always strikes me - the Trojans, throughout the plot, broke the rules of hospitality, of war and its codes and of fairplay. The Greeks played by the rules. And yet, sympathy is inevitably with the Trojans. We mourn with them because their land was attacked by the power hungry Agamemnon. Yet it was Paris who abducted his host's wife; Hector intervenes in a one-on-one fight between Paris and Menelaus, breaking the code of war and the Greeks are attacked by night.

Homer's portrayal of the war is far more nuanced and picking sides is difficult. Homer, like in any epic, addresses ethical questions, presents grey areas and demonstrates the price each character has to pay for their actions and decisions. The movie is facutally faithful to Homer's epic. But by the sheer feat of casting twists the balance in favour of the Trojans. Eric Bana, as Hector, commands dignity and sympathy. Homer's Hector is not nearly as endearing as the man with the face of a boy. Peter O' Toole's greying, respectable and frail figure makes it seem inconceivable that he could be wronging anyone. He orders the Trojans to attack the Greeks before the Sun has risen.

Agamemnon is no paragon of virtue in the epic but he is particularly dastardly as the power hungry Greek monarch in the movie. His looks, according to me, playing no mean role in achieving this. Achilles is redeemed and perhaps the only character who portrays some of the shades of grey that Homer endowed the fabled warrior with. But then again, Achilles is such a conflicted character that you could hardly paint him black or white. He is the only one of the Greeks who retains some sympathy. Odysseus, one of the heroes of Homer's Illiad, and on whom Homer wrote a second epic poem, has become a grovelling chieftain in the movie, his only role being to convince Achilles to fight for Agamemnon.

Troy is beautiful movie for it's wonderful visual landscape. But it is a much more interesting movie for how the director manages to tilt sympathy clearly in the favour of Troy, despite all their misdemeanors through the actors who play each role. Homer makes no final judgement. If anything, he celebrates the Greek victory. The movie is clearly a Trojan saga and not a Greek epic. Such is the power of human faces, of people who become heroes.

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