How Accurate Is: Troy (Film, 2004) Part 2

Poor Hector being retrieved by Priam.
Poor Hector being retrieved by Priam.

Hello everyone! For today’s post about Troy, I will be focusing on my second classification of issues with the film: Anti-Myth Realism. (By the way, if anyone has any opinions on the classification system let me know in the comments, because I am considering incorporating it into future posts.) Anti-Myth Realism was, to anyone who has read the Iliad, perhaps the category that loomed largest when watching Troy. What do I mean by Anti-Myth Realism? Essentially, that Troy decided it did not want to be a movie grounded in Greek mythology. This was either because the director felt strongly about the issue or because it was believed (wrongly, in my opinion) that the mythological aspects of the Iliad would serve only to confuse audiences.

For more, continue past the link.

Make no mistake, the Iliad is strongly grounded in Greek mythology. One could be forgiven for missing this when watching Troy, however. In the Iliad, the gods themselves play an important role in the events of the war. In fact, numerous times throughout the Iliad, they descend to earth and physically participate in the battle themselves; two, Ares and Aphrodite, are even wounded by Diomedes.[1] Troy removes any such appearances by the gods, and indeed, besides pious mentions, they make no appearance whatsoever. Further evidence of the opinion of the film regarding the gods is that whenever one of the religious characters, like King Priam, mentions the gods, they are immediately scoffed at. Hector and Achilles, the main characters of the film, have been turned into committed sceptics by Troy, and each utters numerous witty repartees in response to religious comments (“how many battalions does the sun god command”, Hector says to his father). This stands in sharp contrast to Achilles, in the Iliad, praying for Zeus to bring about the destruction of the Greek army due to insults committed by Agamemnon.[2] In the film, Achilles personally decapitates a statue of Apollo, and Priam is later murdered in front of another statue of the sun god; no divine retribution falls upon those who commit these acts, or at least no retribution directly implied to be divine.

The death of Achilles.
The death of Achilles.

The other mythological aspect of the story that has been removed from the film is that of Achilles. In Greek mythology, Achilles was said to be the son of Thetis, a water nymph, who made him immortal by dipping him in the River Styx; because she held him by his heel, this was the sole vulnerable point on his body, and was where Paris’ poisoned arrow would strike him.[3] In Troy, Thetis has been reduced to a woman standing in a lake; Achilles’ vaunted immortality is repeatedly mocked, including, once, by Achilles himself. In a scene near the beginning of the film, Achilles is asked if he is immortal, and responds by pointing out that if he was, he wouldn’t need a shield. One clever nod, however, to Achilles’ immortality is that, as he lays dying, he pulls all the arrows fired by Paris out of himself save for one in his heel. This is, perhaps, the one saving grace of this aspect of the film; though it felt it necessary to excise all mythological references, it at least has the good sense to do so in a self-mocking manner.

The sole mythological element permitted to remain in the film relates to Thetis, the mother of Achilles. In the film, she prophesizes the fate of Achilles if he goes to war or if he stays; this is a part of the original Achilles legend.[4] In Troy, however, it comes across as strange that an otherwise anti-mythological film would include an accurate prophecy.

As with the condensation aspect of Troy, these omissions are neither unforgiveable nor difficult to understand. However, the film and its historicity do not benefit from this decision, and the inability to commit to removing the myth entirely leaves the end product more confusing than if the myth had been allowed to remain. The next post will focus on Hollywood Romanticism, about which there is much to say. I hope you enjoyed this post, and have a good day!

References:

1 Duke University. “Homer’s Illiad: Summaries,” n.d.

http://people.duke.edu/~wj25/UC_Web_Site/epic/ilsum.html

2 Duke University. “Homer’s Illiad: Summaries,” n.d.

http://people.duke.edu/~wj25/UC_Web_Site/epic/ilsum.html

3 University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science. “Achilles,” Last modified 30 November 2005.

http://idl.ils.unc.edu/serpimgs/cache/1/0/2/wget/achilles.html

4 University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science. “Achilles,” Last modified 30 November 2005.

http://idl.ils.unc.edu/serpimgs/cache/1/0/2/wget/achilles.html

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