Current Essays

Rewrites and movies and Beowulf, Oh My On:2000-11-25 14:15:15

Far be it from me to get involved in your election, but I must point out that those who have been trying to stop the recounts have got it dead wrong —they are missing the whole spirit of this trans-millennial age.

The true representatives of our modern times want to do the entire election over, possibly several times and at least once starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in a rather syrupy way, you see like no other age we are into the remake! Oh! I know that Shakespeare and Chaucer and many-a-more of our predecessors would re-do earlier works, and that in the middle ages some who were writing new works would even pretend that they were copying some earlier, greater authority. But they were as nothing: mere precursors, figura, shadows of our re-workings. Just look at the remake of Psycho! If you turn down the colour on your set, can you tell which twin is being attacked by the Toni1?

But to get on to something I really care about, look at Beowulf. I know that Alvy Singer told Annie2 not to take any course that makes you read Beowulf, but that was then. Now we are up to our byrnies in Beowulf and loving it—come on in the mere's lovely!

First there's Seamus Heaney's translation (widely known in the trade as Heaneywulf). That was such a success earlier this year.
Then there's Crichton's Eaters of the Dead remade as the movie The Thirteenth Warrior.
This sort of vaguely tells a beowulfish tale (which really should have on its FDA label "contains foreign ibn Fadlan parts" because it mixes in the tenth century Arab ibn Fadland's account of life among the Rus) where our hero is inexplicably called Buliwif.
It's not a bad movie though.

But then there is the truly ghastly film remake of Beowulf on its own, called (strangely and not as accurately as I hoped—Beowulf). This does have aspects of the poem, but is really just the same old monster/slasher flick--it even has the obligatory "let's lock all the women and children into this impregnable chamber so we won't be able to help them if the monster happens to be in there with them, whoops!" scene.

The script reminds me just how exciting the Ormulum3 is! (Ask me sometime).

From the opening scene with its execution device designed by Hieronymous Bosch to the really, really, really final denoument with Grendle's surprisingly sexy mum (who turns into a sort of spider, and actually does a very rough translation of one of the bloodier bits of the poem) it gives remakes a bad name. And I was surprised to learn that the WonderBra had such a history, but let's not go there.

And none of the movies tells more than the first half of the story—something to do with attention span I suppose.
Well I'd better stop before someone gets left armless.

And remember—If you didn't think this commentary was as good as it could have been you needn't worry because I think I'm going to redo it next week

Cheerio for now from…
Richard Howland-Bolton


1 Toni
"...can you tell which twin is being attacked by the Toni?" refers to, on the one hand
an advertisement for the Toni Home Permanent, and on the other to Hitchcock's Psycho
where the homicidal maniac Norman Bates was played by Tony Perkins---well I liked the pun!

2 Annie
"... Alvy Singer told Annie" Annie Hall of course!

3 Ormulum
"... just how exciting the Ormulum is" The Ormulum is a twelfth century poem, widely considered to be the most boring ever (see essay Of Nice Ormin). Surprisingly there is a whole site devoted to him at The Ormulum Project!

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