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Beowulf and Grendel the Movie

Updated on September 15, 2014

Dark Fantasy in a modern retelling of Beowulf

Beowulf and Grendel takes you into a world of fable and myth, a world where men, larger than life, stride along the border of light and dark, beset by evil dreams and dark vengeance.

On the edge of waking and dreaming is the Hero, holding back the monsters of the night.

It's a tribal tale told round the fire. Safety ends where the firelight ends - beyond is the dark in which all terrors dwell.

We are transported to another world, and the otherworldly landscape of Iceland lends an appropriate touch of dark fantasy to this modern retelling of Beowulf, the oldest epic poem in the English language.

Is what we see and hear true? Is this a story to entertain and thrill while we quaff our beer, as did the ancient Danes, before we pass into sleep? Without a hero to guard us, the lurking fears of the night creep upon the sleeper and bring on a cold sweat. Anything which is not recognisably our neighbour is dangerous, no stranger can be trusted.

The Making of Beowulf and Grendel

At the beginning of July 2004, Canadian filmmakers Sturla Gunnarsson, Paul Stephens, Andrew Rai Berzins and Eric Jordan went to Iceland to make a movie, a co-production between Canada, the U.K. and Iceland.

It was the beginning of the most difficult project for everyone. A series of events continued to put the project in jeopardy. Halfway through production, the financing had not closed, the film was seriously over budget, and the bonder was alarmed enough to send a representative to Iceland.

The entire production was put under intense scrutiny while the cast and crew were fighting the onset of a ruthless Icelandic winter and diminishing daylight. The storms tore roofs off buildings and swept away equipment, and Gunnarsson slowly seemed to take on the characteristics and physical appearance of a troll as he struggled to fight gigantic obstacles.

What I thought of Beowulf and Grendel - I loved this film!

A Superb Cast

Gerard Butler is the hero Beowulf who travels to Denmark to fight the monstrous troll Grendel ( Ignvar Sigurdsson), who has been plaguing the house of King Hrothgar and slaughtering the warriors in the night. The superb Stellan Skarsgard is Hrothgar, the grief-crippled king, half drunk in the middle of the afternoon.

These three actors are magnificent in their roles but the main character, and the real star, is Iceland. Every single frame is bursting with absolutely glorious scenery!

In this stark tale of revenge and bloodshed, the fight scenes are as gruesome as you would expect but this isn't a horror movie full of screams and gore, it's on the same level of violence as Kingdom of Heaven or Braveheart. Neither is it an "action movie". It's more a convoluted mystery, with Beowulf playing the detective.

Beowulf begins to doubt the commonly held assertion that he is hunting a monster of all encompassing evil. In the end he deeply regrets the need to destroy Grendel, and yet accepts the fact that in his world, it must be done.

Beowulf's final words "Sleep Grendel" brought tears to my eyes.

Yes, it's a myth, told round the campfire, but the monsters are still out there in the dark

Stellan Skarsgard

Stellan Skarsgard is Hrothgar, worn out, drinking too much and mourning the loss of his men from the King's hall overnight.

Beowulf and Grendel, close to the original

The beauty of the language

Most of the film remains true to the original poem, the language is entrancingly almost pure English. A lot of work was done on this dialogue to strip out Latin based words and remove the Norman French borrowings.

It's beautifully done with insults common to Skandinavian sagas, such as the references to shoving swords "up your hairy a****s" and the completely natural response from Hrothgar when he is questioned about Grendel's motives "He's just a f***ing troll!".

Pure Anglo-Saxon, so much so that the conversation of a more literate Irish monk (a new character introduced in the film) is noticeable.

There are three other new characters too, Grendel's father, the witch Selma, and Grendel's son. The notorious coward Unferth (one who later insults Beowulf) is also developed here--Grendel has such contempt for Unferth that he will not kill him (thus giving him a hero's death allowing him to be taken to Valhalla) despite Unferth's repeated attempts to fight the troll.

Warning

Due to some adult content, this film is not at all suitable for children. There's no over-the-top fighting and special effects, but gory just the same and also a disturbing sex scene.

Beowulf and Grendel Trailer

Note the authentic details - the smaller horses and not one Viking helmet with horns!

The scenery is breathtaking - beautiful, beautiful Iceland.

Get your copy of Beowulf and Grendel

The blood soaked tale of a warrior's blade against a murderous troll who has laid siege to the kingdom of Hrothgar king of the Danes.

Out of allegiance to Hrothgar, Beowulf leads a troop of warriors across the sea to rid the settlement of the marauding monster. The monster Grendel is a creature of immense flesh and raging blood driven by a vengeance from being wronged.

Beowulf's willingness to kill on behalf of Hrothgar waivers when it becomes clear that the King is more responsible for the troll's rampages than was first apparent.

Beowulf & Grendel [Blu-ray]
Beowulf & Grendel [Blu-ray]

A rollicking adventure that's part fantasy, part legendary fable, part horror story

Beowulf & Grendel is a tale where vengeance loyalty and mercy powerfully entwine. A story of blood and beer and sweat

 

Beowulf, the Original Story

Beowulf, Ancient Hero
In the face of danger and adversity they display impressive courage for the greater good of all. They are Heroes. We have always had heroes and Beowulf, grea...

Is this the Truth Behind England's Oldest Legend?

The Origins of Beowulf: and the Pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia
The Origins of Beowulf: and the Pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia

Grigsby brings archeological and ethnological studies to bear on this effort to reconstruct the actual circumstances and practices of the peoples who were to become the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (who in turn became the Anglo-Saxons who became today's English)

 

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Carve a rune for Beowulf and Grendel

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    • profile image

      Ask_Me 4 years ago

      Terrific movie!

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Going on my list!

    • profile image

      Glendame 4 years ago

      If I can't rent this I will buy it

    • Image Girl profile image

      Image Girl 5 years ago

      Great article! I'm so glad I found this - I'm going to share it with a friend.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image
      Author

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @MedievalCostumeA: "Politically correct?"

    • MedievalCostumeA profile image

      MedievalCostumeA 6 years ago

      The armor that many of the actors wore seems to be politically correct as well, knowing that the vikings never wore "Horned Helmets".

    • SusannaDuffy profile image
      Author

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @lilymom24: You can't miss ANY movie with Gerard Butler!

    • lilymom24 profile image

      lilymom24 6 years ago

      I have not seen this movie yet but had no idea Gerard Butler was in it. That means, I'll have to put it on my list of "must sees". =)

    • wilddove6 profile image

      wilddove6 8 years ago

      I was a bit disappointed that this movie didn't get the press it deserved. Being Canadian and it being a Canadian co-production, I was avid to see it, and loved the film, (not to mention the hunky lead :). The ambiance was delightfully moody, and you've very much captured that in your review.

    • profile image

      Artemus-Gordon 8 years ago

      This is a classic story, I have yet to see this film but I will look into it.

    • PaulHassing LM profile image

      Paul Hassing 8 years ago

      The stuff you learn in here... Many thanks! :)

    • mrsm54321 profile image

      mrsm54321 8 years ago

      I read the poem whilst I was a school but I can never remember it inspiring me much! This version of the film is amazing though. The whole atmosphere created and the fantastic Icelandic scenery make it a film that is not easily forgotten. I love Gerard Butler and in my opinion he was perfect for the role of Beowulf.