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Beowulf and the Big Screen - Modern Adaptations of Medieval Works

One of the biggest reasons why the most recent Beowulf movie (2007) was so disappointing to some viewers is because it deviated too much from the original text, mainly in regards to Grendel’s mother and the circumstances of Beowulf’s death.

Is it important for modern adaptations of medieval works in film to be true to the text? How much liberty can/should be taken with a text before it "goes too far" and loses the original flavor of the work? Does this liberty affect how people view the original text, and is this an important thing to consider when making such a film?

  • This is a very subjective topic, and I think the answer lies in the quality of the adaptation rather than its trueness to the original work. A faithful adaptation appeals to those who love the original, but a remake that deviates from its source can keep hackneyed stories interesting throughout the years. Consider Shakespeare: there's an abundance of successful adaptations of Shakespeare's many plays, both traditional and creative. The more traditional 1968 version of Romeo & Juliet was highly successful, as was Baz Lurhman's ultra-modernized 1996 version. Whichever direction is taken, an adaptation's success relies on the same thing as any other film, such as good acting, good cinematography, etcetera. Although Beowulf is admittedly an extremely difficult text to bring to the screen, I think the 2007 version of Beowulf failed because of reasons beyond plot deviation (I'm not a filmmaker, but the acting and CGI are among the many points criticized in that version). That said, the Beowulf text has remained an untarnished classic. A classic text stands on its own merits, regardless of whatever adaptations are made. – NotVanHooten 6 years ago
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