Sunday, April 22, 2007

Father of lies

The current movie 300 is based on a "graphic novel" (sorry, can't take that phrase seriously), which is based on a movie of the 1960s. Some Iranians have been outraged by the bizarre and ahistorical depiction of the ancient Persians, just as some Kazakhs have been by Borat. (The Uzbeks and Tajiks are just glad they dodged that bullet.) I have some sympathy for the Iranians, but haven't felt it necessary to keep track of their counterblasts, since in the end they'll just have to lump it (or make their own movie).

Somehow, though, I took a look at this article by Amir Nasseri in the online Persian Journal. Nasseri is upset, too, but more about Herodotus' supposedly contempory account, written sometime after the war, maybe a generation. Why, he asks, do people appeal to Herodotus against 300, when he himself tells a half-mythological tale that is inherently improbable?

Nasseri's not the first person to make these points, but he makes them reasonably well. I, too, have wondered how classicists over the century have found it possible to believe Herodotus' military statistics, or at least some of them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Kyger here, not Anonymous.

I stole the following off Kip Williams, who stole it from someone else.

As one movie reviewer put it, "The movie '300' is to the actual
historical events at Thermopylae what the movie 'Steel Magnolias' was to the actual historical events at Thermopylae".

10:49 AM  
Blogger Colin Archbell said...

This movie is simply a fantasy using the idea of the Thermopylae story. People who read too deeply into it are misinterpreting Frank Miller's intention when he wrote it. Frank Miller never states that his graphic novel (I would prefer to call it a long comic) reveals anything more than the themes of the 300 story. It is a fantastic movie once you get over that point, but the realists will always have a problem with it.

What is more shocking is the inadequate historical depictions in movies that are actually trying to be accurate. Knight's Tale anyone? :P

1:25 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

I loved Knight's Tale in part because it was clear that the director knew what he was doing, and that was trying to make the story relevant to a contemporary audience. He did some dumb stuff but lots was emotionally right on. He played to medieval values as well as current ones.

So I guess I must grant you the point that Frank Miller was also aiming at his chosen contemporary audience and hit the mark.

As I said in an earlier post I was disappointed that this generation's Thermopylae movie wasn't made from the recent and very cool novel Gates of Fire.

6:04 PM  

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