Directed by Sturla Gunnarsson
Based on the epic poem Beowulf
Script by Andrew Rai Berzins
Gerard Butler (Beowulf)
Martin Delaney (Thorfinn)
Eddie Marsan (Brendan)
Sarah Polley (Selma)
Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (Grendel)
Stellan Skarsgård (King Hrothgar)
Originally I was exposed to Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel at the Toronto International Film Festival last September of 2005. I managed to catch the press conference and an extended preview, but ultimately had no chance to view the film itself. Since that time the movie languished as the Canadian/Icelandic production searched for a distributor. Sadly, as of this writing the search continues. However, during March of 2006 it finally saw limited released in Canada, and I jumped at my opportunity.
Based on the epic Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf & Grendel ventures beyond the simple story of hero versus monster and delves into the motivation behind Grendel's seemingly single-minded rampage of death and destruction. To that end, the purists will likely be disappointed by the liberal re-telling, and that would be a shame. Beowulf & Grendel boasts a solid script, fine acting and absolutely breath-taking scenery.
Filmed in Iceland, the icy cliffs and snow-capped mountains serve as a perfect backdrop to this 7th century tale. The scenery evokes a sense of desolation and bleakness that compliments the despair of the Danes and their drink-besotted King, Hrothgar, a role wonderfully executed by Stellan Skarsgard.
Unknown to his people, King Hrothgar is directly responsible for Grendel's vengeance. Word of the troll reaches the hero Beowulf after a savage attack on the King's Mead-Hall leaves many of the King's men dead, all while the drunken Hrothgar sleeps. Beowulf immediately accepts the quest to kill the troll, setting out with his companions in a long ship across the bleak, ice filled waters of the north. This is a Beowulf completely aware of his status and comfortable with the mantle of hero. This is evident during a humorous moment when Beowulf announces his arrival to a Danish scout, who then prepares to launch into a litany of Beowulf's accomplishments, much to the amusement of the hero's men, one of whom cracks, "Here we go."