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Troy 201 – Academics Return to the Topic of Wolfgang’s Epic


When Wolfgang Petersen set out to create his colossal battle epic’s academic study of the film , Dr. Joseph Farrell, the Classical Studies Department Chair at Penn, and archaeologist Dr. C. Brian Rose deconstruct the details.

For Professor Farrell, Troy is chock full of valuable
historical lessons that bear relevance to modern day. He believes
Petersen’s primary motivation was to entertain and that while the
movie’s themes are “secondary,” they are present nonetheless. “The
thing that you notice immediately when the titles come up is that
there’s this orientalizing music,” he explains. “This has the effect of
creating a sense of the scope of the Greek empire as not just this
ancestor of Western civilization, but something that comprised all of
these peoples who we don’t necessarily think of as part of that

The irony of the music, says Farrell, is that it also suggests a
certain level of spirituality, which is markedly absent in the film.
Whereas in The Iliad, the gods not only existed but interacted with the people, in Troy
they are all but ignored. “Brad Pitt’s Achilles,” he says, “who is
supposedly the son of a goddess, is almost atheistic, and his mother is
standing in a pool of water making necklaces for him — she seems like
more like a crazy lady than a goddess.”

Farrell suggests this lack of theism, which some may find off-putting, serves to shift the focus of the film towards a more political message.and to bring the tale down to Earth. This latter theory is less likely, however, because as Farrell notes, the production returned to that majesty in the way they “tried to represent the city of Troy visually. It’s way beyond what the Troy of that period could have looked like.”

Professor C. Brian Rose, who spent 20 years excavating the city, agrees: “They used colossal Greek statuary to decorate the palaces,” he explains. “But there was no tradition of monumental statuary and so it would have been the last thing one would have seen when entering a palace.” Rose concedes that the probable motivations for such adornments were to create an aura of grandeur about the city for audiences: “An archaeologically accurate depiction wouldn’t have sufficiently captured the public’s imagination,” he says. “So they made the walls twice as high as they actually were, I suppose because they assumed that viewers of the movie would imagine Troy as a much larger city than it in fact was — even though it was quite a monumental citadel.”

For a full schedule of Troy on AMC, click here.

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