Thursday, August 25, 2005

beowulf on the casting couch

If you don't know the story of Beowulf (and shame on you), here's a brief summary from SparkNotes:

King Hrothgar of Denmark, a descendant of the great king Shield Sheafson, enjoys a prosperous and successful reign. He builds a great mead-hall, called Heorot, where his warriors can gather to drink, receive gifts from their lord, and listen to stories sung by the scops, or bards. But the jubilant noise from Heorot angers Grendel, a horrible demon who lives in the swamplands of Hrothgar’s kingdom. Grendel terrorizes the Danes every night, killing them and defeating their efforts to fight back...Eventually, however, a young Geatish warrior named Beowulf hears of Hrothgar’s plight...

Hrothgar, who had once done a great favor for Beowulf’s father Ecgtheow, accepts Beowulf’s offer to fight Grendel and holds a feast in the hero’s honor...Grendel arrives. Beowulf fights him unarmed, proving himself stronger than the demon, who is terrified. As Grendel struggles to escape, Beowulf tears the monster’s arm off. Mortally wounded, Grendel slinks back into the swamp to die. The severed arm is hung high in the mead-hall as a trophy of victory.

Overjoyed, Hrothgar showers Beowulf with gifts and treasure at a feast in his honor. Songs are sung in praise of Beowulf, and the celebration lasts late into the night. But another threat is approaching. Grendel’s mother, a swamp-hag who lives in a desolate lake, comes to Heorot seeking revenge for her son’s death. She murders Aeschere, one of Hrothgar’s most trusted advisers, before slinking away. To avenge Aeschere’s death, the company travels to the murky swamp, where Beowulf dives into the water and fights Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair. He kills her with a sword forged for a giant, then, finding Grendel’s corpse, decapitates it and brings the head as a prize to Hrothgar. The Danish countryside is now purged of its treacherous monsters.

Flash forward to 2007: Robert Zemeckis has the cojones to bring this to the screen in bizarro Polar Express style and - in a possibly disastrous, possibly brilliant move - casts Crispin Glover as Grendel. And the swamp hag? Angelina Jolie, of course. The rest of the cast features Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson, John Malkovich, and Robin Wright Penn. Zemeckis is also working on the film adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.

Speaking of The Corrections...I was once on a train in New York, when the man to my left, the woman to my right, and I looked up and realized we were all reading The Corrections, and the man and I were on THE SAME PAGE.

Update: More on Beowulf and Grendel from A Fool in the Forest...

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