Nov. 16, 2007
SMU Director of Medieval Studies Bonnie Wheeler does more than teach Beowulf – she exudes the epic poem as she reads it in the original Old English to her students. And she’s convinced that the new Robert Zemeckis movie treatment sacrifices the power of the original for a plot line that propels Beowulf into seduction by Angelina Jolie -- the mother of the monster he has just slain.
“What man doesn’t get involved with Angelina Jolie?” Wheeler asks. “It’s a great cop-out on a great poem.”
Beowulf, as originally written, is connected to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, in which one brother kills another, Wheeler says. The monster, Grendel, is said to be a descendent of Cain’s clan, and the heart of the poem focuses on the warfare of men and their struggles against fate. Beowulf kills Grendel and then kills his avenging mother with her own sword.
“For me, the sad thing is the movie returns to…a view of the horror of woman, the monstrous female who will kill off the male,” Wheeler says. “It seems to me you could do so much better now. And the story of Beowulf is so much more powerful.”
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