Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friend or Foe

One of the odd things about watching PEPLUM films based on mythological stories and characters is the varying and often contradicting interpretations from the now several films based on those stories or characters. Case in point: Paris and Helen from the Iliad.

In Robert Wise's HELEN OF TROY, Paris (Jacques Sernas) and Helen (Rossana Podestà) are portrayed as star-crossed romantic lovers. In fact, from the way Wise directed the film the story seems to be the greatest love story of all time. Was this accurate or just Hollywood hokum?

In THE TROJAN HORSE, directed by Giorgio Ferroni, Paris (Warner Bentivegna) and Helen (Edy Vessel) are portrayed as evil, conniving, narcissistic and weak. And definitely not in love. The complete opposite to the Robert Wise film. Aeneas was the main character in this film while Paris and Helen were the baddies.

In TROY, directed by Wolfgang Petersen,  Paris (Orlando Bloom) and Helen (Diane Kruger) were seen as neither good or evil. They definitely were not the romantic lovers as portrayed in Wise's version but they weren't as evil as in Ferroni's THE TROJAN HORSE. They never seemed to be happy since their presence brought so much misery and death and the two always appeared frustrated by the ongoing events but they weren't made to look like angels too. In fact, Petersen's take seems to make them look sorta pathetic and useless.

Which of these versions is the correct one?


Michael O'Sullivan said...

I'll go with the Robert Wise Warner Bros version - Rosanna is a lovely Helen and it kinda makes more sense, the lovers tried to part and she return to Sparta but the Gods had a different fate for them, and for Troy ...

Steve R. Orsulak said...

Robert Wise's HELEN OF TROY by far, and I think it is the best version of this classic.

myles said...

Rosanna Podesta passed away in Rome a few days ago at 79, on 10 December 2013.

Лев Аллен said...

This isn't surprising - for the Greeks themselves (and their imitators - the Romans) have not decided on the attitude towards these two. Here, in my opinion, of course, there is one worldview conflict characteristic of classical civilization. On the one hand, it is a patriarchal society, where adultery of a wife is considered a serious crime. On the other hand, the Hellenes were characterized by admiration for eros, and the denial of love feelings could provoke the anger of Aphrodite - and it is better not to anger the gods.

Homer seems to be trying to avoid extremes, and the narrator's attitude varies from place to place. Sappho is inclined to justify Paris and Elena, but only as a purely romantic couple. Euripides, in his tragedies, is more likely to consider Elena a victim, or even ascribes her flight to Egypt. It is curious that this version was adhered to by such minds as Herodotus and Proclus Diadoch (the last Hellenic pagan philosopher)