Homer’s The Iliad recounts a fascinating history of the fate of Troy, a city-state south of present-day Istanbul, complete with the intervention of Zeus and other gods, in the mid-12th century BC. The film Troy, directed by Wolfgang Peterson, attempts to recreate the secular events of that siege while humanizing several of the principal characters, all with an updated dialog and story. Titles at the beginning provide a geopolitical context. Filmviewers learn that King Agamemnon of Mycenae (played by Brian Cox) wants to unite the various Greek city-states, but his brother Menelaus (played by Brendan Gleeson), king of Sparta, has an alliance with Troy, which in turn is governed by King Priam (played by Peter O’Toole). The Sparta-Troy alliance presumably is a balance-of-power move to prevent Agamemnon from gaining regional hegemony. Early in the film, after Agamemnon mobilizes his hitherto invincible army to subdue Thessaly, he offers to settle the contest by summoning his best warrior, Achilles (played by Brad Pitt), to go up against Thessaly’s best warrior. Achilles commands a small contingent that is allied with rather than subject to Mycenae, and he detests Agamemnon’s megalomania. Achilles wins, so Thessaly accepts Agamemnon’s suzerainty. Meanwhile, Prince Paris (played by Orlando Bloom) of Troy, on a diplomatic visit to Sparta, has fallen in love with Menelaus’s queen, Helen (played by Diane Kruger), and vice versa. After Helen boards Paris’s ship in the middle of the night, bound for Troy, Menelaus is furious that Paris has taken advantage of his hospitality, so he summons Agamemnon for a joint expedition to subdue Troy, which has impregnable walls and an able commander, Hector (played by Eric Bana). Those who are familiar with the story will know that many details in Troy are fabricated or even contrary to Homer’s account. Troy is razed, and Greece ultimately maintains dominance, but the three-day war in the film is a ten-year war in Homer’s epic. What is perhaps most fascinating about Troy, however, are subplots and subtexts that appear to provide parallels with Gulf War II and a possible anti-war theme. Agamemnon’s pursuit of geopolitical hegemony without regard to the human cost may be likened to the New World Order of the Bush dynasty. Achilles (rather than Plutarch’s Cyneas) questions the purpose of conquest for the sake of conquest, just as many European leaders raised objections to the flimsy pretext cited by Blair and Bush to take on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Greek soldiers abuse Trojan women, similar to the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American troops. A body of a dead Trojan soldier is even dragged through the dust, and the Trojan horse could be seen as paralleling the hidden agenda of American occupation. (In any case, Gulf War II forced the filming to pull out of Morocco and instead use both Malta and Baja California.) For those not interested in such politicization and anti-war themes, Troy may become a cult film, as there are plenty of well-built males displaying a lot of flesh in battle; a bisexual Achilles is eager to avenge the death of his young cousin Petroclus (played by Garrett Hedlund), who clearly is his lover, though Achilles’s nude sex scenes are with women. Personally, I would have preferred a screen adaptation of Jean Giraudoux’s The Trojan War Will Not Take Place (1935), but that cinematic opportunity remains. Meanwhile, Turkish officials have just reopened a museum with archaeological remnants of Troy in order to cash in on all the cinematic notoriety.  MH

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