What are some differences between the book version of The Odyssey and the movie version?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by Homer in ancient Greece, mostly likely close to the end of the 8th century BC. In 1995, director Mario Camerini released a film adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, which was titled Ulysses.

For the most part, the movie scenes do a...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by Homer in ancient Greece, mostly likely close to the end of the 8th century BC. In 1995, director Mario Camerini released a film adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, which was titled Ulysses.

For the most part, the movie scenes do a good job of mirroring the scenes presented in the epic poem. However, there are three major scenes that were cut from the movie: Ulysses’s seven-year stay on Calypso, Aeolus’s bag of wind forcing the ship away from the shores of Ithaca, and the attack at sea of Scylla and Charybdis.

In the movie, the relationship between Ulysses and his wife Penelope is different. In the movie, Ulysses expresses concern that he may not return from the Trojan War and encourages her to remarry if his does not return by the time their son, Telemachus, is grown. This never happened in the poem. In fact, the exact opposite happened. In the poem, Penelope showed dogged loyalty to her husband. This connects to the aforementioned cut scenes of Calypso and Aeolus’s bag of wind, because both of those events significantly delayed Ulysses’s return and made Penelope’s loyalty that much more impressive and noteworthy, especially with many suitors trying for her hand in marriage.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

For the most part, the film adaptation titled Ulysses is a faithful rendition of the original epic poem. The action in the film takes place in roughly the same way as in the poem, with major scenes like Odysseus’s battle with the Cyclops taking place and in vivid detail. The one major difference is that this film excludes several other events that, while they are less significant in terms of action, are nonetheless instrumental in the story of the epic poem.

For example, the scene in which Odysseus stays on Calypso’s island for seven years has been removed, as has the one where the bag of winds is opened, causing the favorable weather to end and delaying the crew's return. These two events are very important to the overall story: they give an explanation for why Odysseus was gone for such a long time and move the other events forward. However, they are less active and therefore make less effective cinema, so they were cut.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One major difference between the epic poem and the 1997 television movie version of the story is that, in the movie, Odysseus fears that he will not come home from the Trojan War. He tells his wife, Penelope, that she should remarry if he is not back by the time their baby son, Telemachus, has grown up. In the poem, much is made of Penelope's obedience and loyalty to Odysseus. He never tells her to consider remarriage; in fact, he would be extremely angry had she done so. When he does return to Ithaca, he is anxious to see if she has been loyal to him in his absence, and he becomes enraged (for a moment) when he thinks that she has not (she craftily mentions a detail having to do with their old bed to test him and make sure he is really Odysseus; he passes her test). One of Penelope's defining qualities, in the poem, is her extreme loyalty in the face of all the persistent suitors that vie for her hand in marriage after Odysseus's very extended absence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are two major screen versions of Homer's The Odyssey:

The 1955 Italian film Ulysses with Kirk Douglas, 115 minutes;

The 1997 American TV Miniseries The Odyssey, 176 minutes.

Because the 1955 film is better known, I assume that is the one you are referring to.

Ulysses was filmed in 1955 in Italy, and almost every actor except Kirk Douglas speaks Italian; the original English dubbing is famous for being quite bad and mismatched. At the time, Ulysses was one of the most expensive movies ever made, and due to budget concerns, they had to shorten and modify the story.

Three major scenes are cut:

(1) Ulysses's 7-year stay on the island of Calypso

(2) Aeolus's bag of wind blowing Ulysses's ship away from the shores of Ithaca

(3) The attack of Scylla and Charybdis at sea.

Otherwise, the film is considered to be very faithful to the source material, if a bit dramatized and dumbed-down so as not to bore the audience. Most reviews mention the strong presence and charisma of Kirk Douglas, and the expensive and technologically superior (for the time) special effects. A great deal of the narrative and repetition is excised, as well as the three scenes mentioned above; they were likely cut for time and expense, as well as being the most superfluous to the plot.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team