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This film borrowed almost nothing from the literary early saga except the title and the presence of a terrible destructive monster. While the monster Grendel (and his mother) are filmic “gold,” in the old saga the real story is the bravery of the hero Beowulf and the detailed depiction of the social/military world in which Hrothgar and his followers acted. In an unfortunately typical fashion, Hollywood selected the lowest common denominator, violence, to sell tickets. Consequently, the lesson learned from the film is art vs. commodity. The “language” of film differs from the language of “epic,” in that the camera chooses where and at what and at what magnitude the spectator looks, while in reading the saga, the reader can bring his or her imagination to bear on any part of a scene—the monster or the torn arm, or the face of the hero, etc. The film deals only with the external struggle and virtually not at all with the motives of the players. It is, then a film about Grendel more than about Beowulf. It would be a mistake to think that seeing the film can be a substitute for reading the saga.
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