I apologize to my three readers for the lack of posts. I feel that I need to rethink the concept of the blog and decide if I want to write about politics or about art and culture or just about random themes. While that clarity doesn’t come, here goes another random post, a mere film review. But I will soon be back with more interesting stuff.
I saw “300” the other day. Yes, the film about “Sparta”, even though it is from 2006 I hadn’t seen it yet. I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it either, but I cannot say I liked it, and a lot of it has to do with how contemporary films portray historical events.
There is not much that is really historical in “300”. It is, after all, based in a comic book by Frank Miller that I didn’t read and which, while inspired by, did not exactly follow the events of the Battle of Thermopylae. The film is really closer to fantasy flicks such as “Lord of the Rings” than to actual historical epics. It has deformed hunchbacks, persians fighting with Samurai masks, rhinoceros and elephants, impossible CGI scenery and choreographed fights.
That is not really my problem of the film. While I would prefer a more realistic film about the real Sparta, I think that there is no reason why film-makers should not be able to to what they damn well please. Even if, in the present times where ignorance of History is rampant, there might be some viewers who believe that what they see on the screen is a valid and realistic historical portrayal (which was also my issue with Tarantino’s “Django” and its slaves screaming “mothafucka” and “yo black ass”).
The film is kitsch. In fact, it probably elevates kitsch to a whole new level. Dialogue is unrealistic and uninspired, mostly consisting of platitudes such as “Freedom isn’t free”. I find it hard to believe that the ancient Spartans thought or talked like American neocons. And, while the message is uplifting, I am pretty sure that “freedom”, at least how we understand it, was far from being the ancient Spartans’ priority. Also the subplot with the Queen, in fact the character of the Queen, is irrelevant, and I supposed was only included because of a complain by feminists, since it seems it was not even in the original comic book.
I suppose my main problem with the film is that it follows a pattern of exaggeration in American cinema, which I don’t know if is related to the growing use of CGI, to the overuse of superhero-type characters in popular culture, or to the fact that most filmgoers today are teenagers. From “Avatar” to “Batman”, films are just getting closer and closer to videogames.
Would a more historically accurate and more realist film be as successful? Hard to say. It might, but it also might not, and producers usually prefer to play safe and to reach for the largest audience possible. As H. L. Mencken said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” — but some may have lost money overestimating it.