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KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Beowulf & Grendel’ Brings New Twist to Ancient Epic Poem; Grendel’s Rage Explained in Limited-Release Canadian-Icelandic Flick

Posted by kinchendavid on August 28, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – The distribution of independent movies will always remain a mystery to me. Why, for example, has the outstanding Canadian-Icelandic film “Beowulf & Grendel” had such a limited release?

I saw the 103-minute, R-rated movie in mid-July in Chicago; according to all the sources I’ve checked, the 2005 film, directed by Icelandic born Canadian Sturla Gunnarsson and written by Andrew Rai Berzins – based on the Epic Old English poem dated anywhere from 700 to 1000 C.E.—has been in “limited” release in the U.S. since mid-June 2006. “Limited” usually means L.A.-Chicago-NYC. According to Amazon.com, the DVD will be available for sale Sept. 26, 2006.

If you liked the “Lord of the Rings” movies, the various adaptations of the King Arthur Legend and “Harry Potter,” you’ll probably enjoy this movie, starring Gerard Butler (“The Phantom of the Opera”) as Beowulf, Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson as Grendel, Stellan Skarsgard as King Hrothgar and Sarah Polley as Selma the witch. Hringur Ingvarsson is Young Grendel and Spencer Wilding is Grendel’s father.

Here’s a plot synopsis, written by Roundstound Communications, found on IMDb.com: “Beowulf & Grendel” is a medieval adventure that tells the blood-soaked tale of a Norse warrior’s battle against the great and murderous troll, Grendel. Heads will roll in this provocative take on the first major work of English literature. Out of allegiance to the King Hrothgar, the much respected Lord of the Danes, Beowulf leads a troop of warriors across the sea to rid a village of the marauding monster. The monster, Grendel, is not a creature of mythic powers, but one of flesh and blood – immense flesh and raging blood, driven by a vengeance from being wronged, while Beowulf, a victorious soldier in his own right, has become increasingly troubled by the hero-myth rising up around his exploits. Beowulf’s willingness to kill on behalf of Hrothgar wavers when it becomes clear that the King is more responsible for the troll’s rampages than was first apparent. As a soldier, Beowulf is unaccustomed to hesitating. His relationship with the mesmerizing witch, Selma, creates deeper confusion. Swinging his sword at a great, stinking beast is no longer such a simple act. The story is set in barbarous Northern Europe where the reign of the many-gods is giving way to one – the southern invader, Christ. Beowulf is a man caught between sides in this great shift, his simple code transforming and falling apart before his eyes. Building toward an inevitable and terrible battle, this is a tale where vengeance, loyalty and mercy powerfully entwine.”

Old English — “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien was one its all-time greatest authorities – needs translation to modern English. Although it’s one of the foundations of modern English, it’s a foreign language, unlike the Middle English of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” which can be deciphered by modern readers with a little assistance (OK, a lot of assistance!).

Here’s a sample from “Beowulf,” along with a modern English translation: “Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.” In modern English: “Lo! We the Spear-Danes, in days of yore, have heard of the glory of the people’s kings how the noble ones did deeds of valor.” Don’t worry, this is no Mel Gibson production; the language in “Beowulf & Grendel” is modern English.

The movie opens with a flashback explaining why Grendel is so obsessed with Hrothgar and his entourage. Spoiler alert: I’m not going to give it away! This is a perfect DVD movie, because you’ll have to see it several times to nail the details of the plot.

When I entered the theatre on North Clark Street in Chicago not far from Wrigley Field, I noticed a group of middle-aged women in the auditorium. In my inimitable manner, I called out “You’re either English majors or Gerry Butler fans.” In the ensuing laughter I could tell that the answer was the latter. Scottish-born Butler, who played the hunky Phantom in the 2004 movie, has attracted female fans of all ages. With his beard and Viking getup, you’ll be hard-pressed to recognize Butler as the mad genius of the Opera Populaire but he more than holds his own with the other veteran actors of the cast.

You don’t have to be an English major (like the reviewer) to enjoy “Beowulf & Grendel.” I still can’t understand why the movie wasn’t released widely in the States. It hasn’t even been released in Europe, as far as I can determine.

If you’re interested in seeing it, the DVD is probably your best choice.

Here’s the web site for “Beowulf & Grendel”:
http://www.beowulfandgrendel.com/site/framestestvertical.html

For more about “Beowulf”:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf

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One Response to “KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Beowulf & Grendel’ Brings New Twist to Ancient Epic Poem; Grendel’s Rage Explained in Limited-Release Canadian-Icelandic Flick”

  1. […] Original post by kinchendavid and software by Elliott Back […]

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