Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Movies: Alexander

The first thing I heard this morning when I got onto the elevator was, "Alexander wasn't a horrible movie. It was a beautiful story that has been misunderstood." - "He's been waiting to tell you that since yesterday." Now why was I discussing the merits of a mediocre 2004 Oliver Stone movie at 5 in the morning? Well, I blame the chaplain.

Yesterday, as part of his ethics class, he decided to go back in history all the way to Aristotle and his philosophies. After all he had a famous military leader as a student - Alexander the Great. Surely, we all know about Alexander since that movie with Brad Pitt came out recently.

Me: Colin Farrell, sir. *
Chaplain: You've seen it?
Me: Yes, sir.
Chaplain: How was it?
Me: It was bad, sir.
Chaplain: So you wouldn't recommend it?
Me: No, sir.

Apparently, there were at least two other people in class that had seen the film and disagreed with me. I haven't seen the movie in a while so I can't really go into any great detail about my dislikes but I have a few distinct reasons for disliking Stone's interpretation of the historical figure Alexander. I went to see it in theaters the week it came out (given my like for Braveheart, as a historical epic, this should have been right up my alley). I had taken a Greek history class earlier that year, and while I was already fuzzy on some of the details, something just seemed off about the film. I have since heard that the film was more or less historically accurate, but it still felt off - obviously, Stone hadn't consulted with my professor about the proper interpretation of certain events. It was also long, surprisingly boring, and I remember thinking that some of the camera work was odd, to say the least.

However, my two main problems concerned Alexander's relationships. Stone clearly hints (although that is too weak a word) at an attraction between Alexander and Jared Leto's character. Stone basically had his characters declare their eternal love for each other but stopped short of having them do anything beyond one long hug. Obviously, the idea of two men is going to alienate some viewers, but I think by this point in the story, they have already been so alienated just by the interactions between the characters that actually having them kiss really wouldn't have made too much of a difference. Instead, it looks like Stone wants to address the fact that homosexual acts** were accepted within Greek and Macedonian society but stops just shy, perhaps afraid of losing his more conservative audience, when he has clearly already lost them.

I also disliked the protrayal of Alexander's relationship with his mother. Stone chose the Freudian route, and decided to focus on the story of Oedipus Rex. However, in ancient Greece/Macedonia, the lesson behind Oedipus Rex's tragedy had more to do with people's inability to escape fate and not so much with the fact that he wanted to kill his father and sleep with his mother. That was pure Freud. As a result, I was rather appalled that Stone chose a 20th century theory to explain the lives and relationships of a 4th or 3rd century BC man.

* How can you confuse Brad Pitt and Colin Farrell? One of them looks greasy and dirty in most pictures, and has basically lost any attraction he may have once had, while the other one is Brad Pitt. I mean seriously, Farrell had a beer gut in Alexander and badly bleached hair.
** I make the distinction between homosexual acts and homosexuality. After all, homosexuality wasn't actually a term in the English language until the 1800s nor did it exist as a concept in the same way that it does today.

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