Introduction of recreating the book, and translating the language

Introduction

            For
decades, Hollywood has adapted many best-selling, well-known books to turn into
a modern film. While many people love these adapted modern films, there are
also people who criticize this adaptation – or I personally call this a
“Hollywood fashioned movie.” Even though movies do a fair job of recreating the
book, and translating the language into easier and more modern form, this is
not without any potential risks: bad acting, slurred and indistinct dialogue
between actors, and lack of understanding and knowledge of the original book. This
leads to a question why are books turning into modern films? The answer is
simple: simplicity and abbreviated version of a long text or book.

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Thesis

            For
instance, one of the well-known epic poetries, Beowulf, has translated into more
modern language and adapted to many different texts as well as into films. Since
Beowulf is known as the longest and oldest epic poem in Old English, the era of
the Anglo-Saxon period, it is hard to recognize familiar words (that we now
know as modern English) and is difficult for people to read and understand. The
history of Beowulf goes back to the Anglo-Saxon period where the poem and
events are set in Scandinavia. Beowulf was a Geat, also known as a Thane – what
is now modern-day Finland/Sweden. He fights for the Danes, a Northern Germanic
tribe, also known as the Kingdom of Denmark. The concept of loyalty is the
central theme of this poem. It focuses on Beowulf’s bold, fearless, audacious
and heroic traits as well as on his achievements and battles with demonic
monsters.

Language      

            Being
the longest and oldest epic poem in English literature, written and composed by
an unknown author during an Anglo-Saxon era, Beowulf was written in Old English
– heavily inflected with Germanic vocabulary. It is different from modern
English we know now, making it difficult for an audience to read and understand
the poem. Because Anglo-Saxon poetry has a tradition of oral poetry, much of
Beowulf’s material had been available for use in the oral narrative for a long
time. Beowulf is now widely taught, and it is often presented as one of the
most important compositions in English literature. Fortunately, the poem was generally
translated throughout the years and adapted to modern English. For instance,
Seamus Heaney translated line by line to the original form without leaving any
details yet using modern English. 

History

            The
poem is a story of the supernatural and additionally a record of Anglo-Saxon
history. The poem sets place in 6th century Denmark and Sweden (Scandinavian).

The Geats belonged to Beowulf’s tribe and possessed the southern part of Sweden
meanwhile, Hrothgar was the King of Danes and his astonishing mead-hall, Heorot
was served as a palace for the King and his people.

Since then, a number of halls were
found approximately around the 500s and onward; it means that any of them could
have been Heorot. Even though there is no proof that Beowulf was a real man,
there is a significant deal of Germanic history taking in the poem. His characteristics
fit flawlessly into the setting of his society and the Anglo-Saxon era. For
example, in Germanic Societies or in Anglo-Saxon era, which the poem took place
in, there were heroic codes – it defined how a nobleman should act. Heroic
codes defined a nobleman who had strength, courage, and honor, but also loyal, generous
and giving. These codes were very important, especially in a warrior/ an Anglo-Saxon
era.

Theme

            There
are numerous differences between the poem, and the modern movie version of
Beowulf that show significant weaknesses and strengths of the movie. The movie,
which was an animated version, has more drama and more focused on Beowulf’s
flaws (hubris). Its dramatic theme has separated the details and importance of
the poem. However, the poem’s theme focuses more on loyalty. The poem reflects
the values, qualities, motivation, and inspirations of the characters – this
goes back to the history of Anglo-Saxon era when heroic codes existed, and it
was taken seriously. One of the examples is when Beowulf comes to help the
Danes to kill Grendel, he is looking to increase his reputation and gaining
honor, however, the real motivation is to pay for his family debt – which his
father owes to King Hrothgar. These two families share a strong bond that goes
back many years, and Beowulf is honored to lend his service to King Hrothgar.

Even when he returns home, his loyalty continues to lay his loyalty to King
Hygelac. When King Hygelac dies, Beowulf is offered to take his crown, yet he
sincerely refuses and let Heardred (King Hygelac’s son) take the crown. He
serves the young king faithfully. Not only Beowulf’s loyalty is important, but so
is Wiglaf’s – his loyalty lay to Beowulf till he dies. He serves Beowulf as a
king faithfully, and he is also described as one of Beowulf’s most loyal
friends.

Film Comparison

            When
he meets Grendel’s mother (after killing Grendel), he fights fearlessly. He
cuts through her neck with a blade, showing no mercy. However, in the movie,
Beowulf’s boldness is still there, but it shows his flaws more than his heroic
traits. For example, when Beowulf kills Grendel – the demonic monster, his
mother is seeking vengeance. She kills warriors who were asleep in mead-hall (Heorot)
after celebrating the death of Grendel. Beowulf, in the movie, instead of
killing the witch/ monster, he falls for her seductive appearance and promises
of keeping him forever King and strong and sleeps with her. The movie focuses on
their relationship rather than Beowulf’s epic battle with the monster. The
battles with monsters he encounters are important because they represent who
Beowulf is – a hero. However, the film did not quite reach the expectation of
the poem and left out significant parts that were important but added parts
that were less important such as focusing on Grendel’s mother’s appearances
(played by Angelina Jolie).

Comparison/Characters

            Beowulf
is also shown as a hero who is fearless and praised for his boldness meanwhile,
the movie focuses on his heroic flaws, and the relationship he has with
Grendel’s mother. Also, the characters shown in the film are not suitable for
the poem – especially some of the characters are portrayed differently. For
example, King Hrothgar is portrayed as one of the most honorable kings in the
poem meanwhile, in the movie, he is portrayed as a drunken king who loves to
party and has committed sins that could not be forgiven (such as sleeping with
Grendel’s mother while he was married). Another example is appearances of
Grendel’s mother. She is described as a horrendous monster or a witch, but she
is portrayed as this beautiful, exotic monster that seduces Beowulf. The ending
of the poem and the movie are quite similar since the hero is died with dignity
and honor. However, killing of the dragon in at the end of the film and the
poem is quite different. The hero (Beowulf) finds out the dragon is his son who
he had with Grendel’s mother – he does not recognize him since he disguised as
the dragon, so he kills him.

Alterations

            The
overall evaluation of the movie, comparing to the poem is a letdown. It weirdly
added scenes that were not in the poem (mentioned above) and more dramatic and
sexual scenes that would catch audience’s attention. Also, it is almost
impossible to recapitulate the whole text (approximately 3190 lines) into 1 to
2-hour film. However, it is simply not appropriate enough to replace the poem. The
poem has more details of who Beowulf is and its history of Anglo-Saxon era. Even
though the movie has translated and made it easier for the audience to
understand, lack of understanding and knowledge of the original poem made the
film disappointing and not suitable to replace it.

Casting

            Also,
the actors and actresses in the movie are represented quite differently than in
the poem. Physical representations describing Beowulf in the poem coincide with
the film’s portrayal. He is played by Ray Winstone. His character, Beowulf, is physically
attractive, strong and charming. He charms people by telling his astonishing
events against great monsters. His stunning physical appearances attract women
such as Queen Wealhtheow and even Grendel’s mother. Beowulf is not described as
a charming hero but described rather dauntless and honorable hero in the poem –
following the heroic codes which were a great importance during an Anglo-Saxon
era. Another example of differences between the film and poem is Grendel’s
mother, her appearances, and relationship she shares with King Hrothgar and Beowulf.

The character in the film is played by Angelina Jolie – she is more seductive than
monstrous. Her acting in the film is flawless, but her appearances and role do
not coincide with the poem. Also, Queen Wealhtheow takes a great part in the
film, however, she does not have a key role in the poem. She is played by Robin
Wright. In my opinion, her role in the film is unnecessary and pointless since
hers is not as important as other characters in the film.

Critical Response

            Author
Andy Orchard believes “some modern readers have failed to be impressed by Beowulf” because Beowulf’s poet produced
“a perhaps surprising number of apparently critical of at least questionable
comments” on his characters. Orchard’s criticism shows he doubts the poet and
his work might need “special pleading” to prove his piece is worth for modern
readers to read. Orchard’s comments are debatable, yet Beowulf is still known
as one of the most important and fine works in English Literature.

Overall Evaluation

            The
film did a fair job of recreating the original into a “Hollywood” film. It
definitely had scenes that would attract an audience’s attention more than the
poem would – especially when it is written in Old English, and it is difficult
for a lot of readers to understand. However, the film succeeded in detailing
the graphics of each character even if some characters did not quite coincide
with the poem. Also, certain storylines in the film are interesting and
different which definitely catch audience’s attention. However, whether the
movie did a fair job of recreating the poem, it is still a letdown and
definitely not appropriate to replace the original considering it is one of the
most important works in English literature.