Sunday, November 28, 2004

Immortal men, glorious history

A curious animal, man is. Realises his mortality and therefore chooses to seek immortality. Immortality in deeds, myth, legend, verse or anything. It's such a strange concept, really. The ambition or desire to be remembered, to live on. The fear of being forgotten in death. Why should it matter? I'm not saying I wouldn't want to be remembered long after I'm gone, but I'm not exactly going to be able to check up on things later on, am I? So why is it that it seems so important to get something meaningful, worth remembering, done? A psychological defense mechanism against the thought of not existing? (Yes, as you can see, I'm not a firm believer of an afterlife of any kind...) Against the thought of being of no importance in the grand scale of things? A desperate try, therefore, to convince oneself of having a purpose?

A lot to ponder, for sure. And why such an existential angst attack? Well. I saw Oliver Stone's Alexander today. It's the second movie in a very short time that deals with the desire of man to reach immortality, to be etched into the common memories of mankind. There is Achilles in Troy, and now Alexander the Great in Stone's epic. Achilles, of course is frequently mentioned in Alexander's story, too.

Naturally, the legend of Achilles is just that, a legend. There could be a historical person who has inspired Homer to write about such a character, but we'll never know it for sure. Alexander, however, is a real person who lived some 2300 years ago and that can be proved without any doubt. It's even quite clear that he had a great war horse named Bucephalus. In the movie, by the way, the horse was just magnific - a huge black steed of pure power and grace. I want one of those too!

What I couldn't help but wonder while watching the movie was the real person who Alexander was. Did he indeed think that he'd love to be like Achilles and be remembered throughout ages as a great hero and warrior? It was one of those really strong feelings of "otherness" I sometimes get when watching historical documents and movies that are based on real persons. What exactly did Babylon look like when Alexander first rode through the lion gates? What did he really look like himself? (I did like Colin Farrell in the role, mind you.) What doesn't seize to amaze me is the thought that there actually was a young man who, by the time he was my age, had conquered much of the known world. He lived, breathed, slept - just like any of us in this time.

I don't know if this makes me a hopeless romantic who shouldn't even think about a career in teaching history or just a person with too vivid an imagination... In any case, I do think it's one of the best things history can offer me, this sense of wonder. Very much like good literature (especially science fiction & fantasy), it makes me stop and think. Oh, to be able to travel in time! I'd love to see how Alexander and Hephaestion rode to battle (not to mention each o... oh no, I'm not going into that direction now. Shoo, thoughts, back to line, go on!) or... Well, I'd love to see quite a lot of things & moments from the past.

So sure, I'd love to be immortal. I'd just love to have been immortal from the dawn of the first high cultures of mankind. I wouldn't want to miss anything, really. (I'm not asking for much, now am I, Santa?)

And the movie then? I liked it. I don't think it deserves to be smashed into little itsybitsy pieces with the sharp weapons of the critics. I do think Stone would've been better off, if he'd edited some of the fight scenes a bit more. Now they were numbingly long and bloody, for no apparent reason. I'm sure he wanted to portray the chaos of war and the necessary cruelty involved, but the point could've been made with shorter battle sequences, too.

Visually the movie was breathtaking. The city of Babylon (they had put the palace of the Hanging Gardens into the scenery, too, which I thought was wonderful - and another great sight was the harbor of Alexandria, with the light house. library and all) was amazing, the mountains beautiful. The costume designers had done a great job, I thought the Persian dancers were especially interesting. They did seem like they'd stepped down from an ancient wall painting. I mentioned already that I thought Colin Farrell was a piece of eye candy for me, but omg, so were a few other of the young men of the movie.

There was this servant boy (well, a young man) Alexander had. Oh dear me. He didn't even look real, for cryin' out loud. He was just one of those people who are too beautiful and because of that they seem more like ancient Greek statues than actual living human beings. But dear, oh dear, the boy was nimble (ergo, not made out of marble, I presume)! There was a scene where eight or then young men performed a dance to Alexander and his court. Wow. The guy reminded me of the first time I ever saw Horacio Cifuentes perform oriental dance in Helsinki. I didn't know a man could move like that. :) (Horacio, by the way, is a whole other story, maybe I'll tell it some day, but until I do, all you need to know is that his shimmies are -ahem- great...)

While Hephaestion (Jared Leto) had his moments, I did prefer Alexander most of the time. ;) What I don't get, is the big deal that has been made out of the love between the two male characters. The Greek people trying to sue Oliver Stone for portraying Alexander as bisexual? Why on Earth would you want to do that? The cultural and moral values of modern people can't be applied to an ancient culture. It should be well known to the Greeks themselves that in the ancient Greek culture men having male lovers wasn't really anything out of the ordinary. I thought that the story of the love Alexander and Hephaestion shared was really quite beautifully told. There weren't any explicit scenes involving them - actually the only scene that could be considered a bit more explicit was the scene where Alexander and Roxane first shared a bed but then, it's the "normal", heterosexual way of things, so I suppose that is acceptable for the American (and Greek) audiences, too... So all in all, what's the big deal? Alexander's deeds aren't going to be any less magnificent or tragic, if we acknowlege the fact that he most likely didn't share a bed with just his wives...

Oh dear, it's midnight and I'm still sitting here. Have to go to bed now. :) It'd be great to ponder the movie a bit more, but I need the sleep, mortal as I am.

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