Sunday, July 31, 2005

What becomes a legend most?

Robin Hood, King Arthur, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes, The Three Muskateers, Tristan and Iseult, The Holy Grail, Antony and Cleopatra. Legendary characters, some of them based on actual people, but all of these characters have entertained people through out the centuries.

And now recently the romance of Rome and Greece has come to the fore in books and movies, think Gladiator with Russell Crowe, HBO's new series Rome, and ABC's recent Empire, not to mention the PBS/BBC series, I Claudius.

But one of the most famous legends of all is that of Helen of Troy. Even her birth is legendary. The story is that Zeus seduced her mother Leda in the form of a swan. Yes, a swan. Ick! I don't even want to think about it, but that's the legend. Helen was the woman whose face launched a thousand ships, and started the Trojan War (really it was also an excuse for the Greeks to get their hands on Trojan wealth, as well as defending male pride).

Her story has inspired everyone from Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida), Marlowe, poets, painters, poets and playwrights. She is a symbol of erotic desire and what lengths men will go to to abain it.

In Troy, Helen was played by the beautiful blonde but vapid Diane Krueger, and Paris by the delicious Orlando Bloom, but the movie wasn't really about them or even the Trojan war. No this movie was all about Achiles as played by Brad Pitt, or more importantly Brad Pitt's thighs, his abs, his ass. Despite the fact that Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, and Sean Bean were also in the movie (why doesn't someone do a remake of Prisoner of Zenda and cast Sean Bean please?).

There was also a TV movie on the USA network starring the beautiful but vapid English actress Sienna Guillory as Helen as a beautiful half-wit. The movie is about the same length as Troy but it manages to tell the entire story of Troy in the same amount of time from Paris brith (and Cassandra's prediction that Paris will end up destroying Troy to Helen being kidnapped by Theseus. Agamemnon is played by the gorgeous Rufus Sewell.

Because Helen's beauty is so legendary, I think any actress is at a distinct disadvantage from the start. It's not like playing Cleopatra who all the historians agree was not that attractive. So any movie about the Trojan War is bound to disappoint on that account. You almost wish that Helen could be heard but not seen so that the audience could imagine her beauty for themselves.

Still Helen is more popular than ever. Two major books are coming out in the next year about Helen. Amanda Elyot's arrives first in November and Margaret George should have hers in stores next year. The legend continues.

What is your favorite legend, and do you have a favorite movie?

1 comment:

Gabrielle said...

Favorite movie: Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. Turned Gladiator off about 20 minutes in, not interested in Troy (except for Eric Bana--excellent actor) or Alexander The Great. I barely made it through the LOTR films--although I would have been okay if it had just been Viggo all the time ;-) But anytime BC& the SK are on TV, I sit down and watch. Redford as the Kid is my favorite, although they're both wonderful--sly, funny, resourceful. I guess I like my legends to be outside the law. Of course, I like to believe they got away :-) In fact, when I was watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith the other day and there's a scene where they lock and load then burst out shooting, I thought "Ahhhh! This is BC & the SK but this time they get to live!"