Homer, the stalwart figure in the history of literature of the world, made his mark in his seminal work, The Odyssey, which has passed the test of time and has got engraved in the verses of immortality all over the globe for its literary excellence and quintessence. The cinematic adaptation of the epic was directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and it released in the year 1997. Odysseus is a man of paramount strength, but relies on his brains than his brawns. The perseverance of the human soul and loyalty are all the various facets of human emotions which the epic as well as the film delve deep into. The works are explorations into the different sides of the individual character. The film has some basic differences in its portrayal and moulds the facts of the epic in certain places but endeavors at the same time to bring out the essence of the epic.
The epic depicts the cunning of the protagonist, Odysseus. The epic is a portrayal of his immense power and cunning. The epic, moreover, deals with the role of temptation in the lives of people and how the individual is governed by their subjective desires for gain.
Odysseus sets out on a journey to fight in the Trojan War leaving his beloved Penelope and his son behind. He promises to return to her after the battle is over. Penelope is a committed lover and she gives him her word that she would wait for him. The epic, thus, communicates the message of love and commitment to a cause.
In the epic, Odysseus wishes to overpower Polyphemus. However, he knows very well that he needs to outwit him, rather than show his strength in comparison. He does go ahead to put out an eye of his, but that is done in a bid to deceive Polyphemus. In his palace, Odysseus utilizes disguises and deceptions to ensure that the suitors get locked in one room with him and remains armed. Odysseus proves that he excels in strategic planning.
Odysseus knows that Scylla and Charybdis are impossible to be beaten and hence he resorts to wise decisions and carefulness in dealing with them. While Homer describes that Scylla has six heads, the director alter that portrayal showing her to have only three heads.
Ajax has been shown in the epic raping the Trojan priestess Cassandra in this temple at the time of the plundering of the city by the Greeks. This act of impiety and temptation actually brought upon the wrath of Athena upon the fleet. This in turn was the inception of the series of nightmarish events which occurred on Odysseus’ way back from the Trojan kingdom.
When an individual submits to temptation and recklessness, the gods get enraged or Odysseus gets distracted from his journey along with his entire crew. They even forget about their homes eating the fruit of lotus and yielding to the slaughter of the flocks of the Sun.
Another form of temptation is Odysseus’ hunger for kleos. His revelation of his name brings the wrath of Poseidon and his men on Odysseus. Odysseus longs to listen to the sweet song of Siren while his crew sails forward and is only saved by his foresight of asking the crew to keep him bound to the mast of the ship to avoid exactly such a situation. Homer shows time and again how the protagonist of the epic gets tempted by the various things. It is the desire of the heart which impedes the return of Odysseus and his crew back home.
In stark contrast to the epic by Homer, in the film, the events of encounters with the Sirens and the Lotus eaters are left out. Homer opts to begin the epic in medias res, while the film shows the events in chronological order. The director takes the cinematic liberty to alter some of the facts portrayed in the epic by Homer. Homer never specifies how Odysseus’ mother, Anticlea, meets her demise by suicide. The director, however, goes on to show that she commits suicide by drowning herself.
The film goes on to simplify the narrative structure of the epic and make the events more dramatic in the audio-visual supplement. The director goes for exotic locations, state-of-the-art special effects to accentuate the effect of the film. Odysseus leaves his wife, Penelope, after his son Telemachus is born. The film shows many suitors who visit her after Odysseus has left her to fight in the Trojan War. This is the director’s way of endeavoring to increase the dramatic content of the story and ignite the emotional response on the part of the audience. The addition of suitors in the cinematic version is a way of showing how Penelope was faced by options which could have ignited her temptations.
Thus, the director tries to bring in the emotional tension in the film. Penelope, however, never gives in to the possibility of courting someone else and she abides by her promise to Odysseus which assured him that she would only marry after Telemachus reaches manhood and she has accepted that Odysseus lost his life in the war.
Homer’s epic is a journey into the realm of human nature where the individual faces the test of time. Odysseus has to remain loyal to the cause of war for a long period which is a decade. On the other hand, Penelope remains loyal to the cause of her lover. While Odysseus sacrifices his love-life with Penelope for the Trojan War, she too does without the love and warmth of Odysseus and waits for his return from the dreadful war.
At the end of the story, the protagonist finally proves his identity and is restored to the throne of the kingdom of Ithaca. Thus, the long journey of return from the gory battlefield to a life which he had left long ago is completed. The story is of the persistent struggle and the impediments which come his way as he endeavors to reach his ambition.
The protagonist’s character along with the events which take place in his life and his association with the other characters weave the fabric of the story. The literary work and the cinematic adaptation can thus be compared to comprehend the differences between the portrayals of the story and narrative. It can also be understood how a literary work can be restructured when it is being adapted in some other aesthetic form by someone other than the author of the original work.
Both the epic and the film delve deep into the intricacies of human nature and explore the unchartered territories of the human soul. While the epic evokes the imagination of the avid readers to weave the vivid imagery complying with the description of the epic, the cinematic adaptation presents an audio-visual representation of the same which is a vision of the director. The vision and cinematic translation of the director aids the audience to cognize the depth of the story and thus adds to the experience.
Both aim at affecting the people and communicating the very essence of the story. To feel the intricacy of the story and the narration, an individual should go through the literary version by Homer and then watch the film adaptation so that he or she can draw a comparison and differentiate between the two aesthetic experiences.
“Review: ‘The Odyssey’” Variety. 16 May, 1997. Web. 21 Feb 2014.
“An Analysis of Homer’s The Odyssey.” Weareliterarycritics. 6 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Feb 2014.