October 08, 2004
Beowulf and Grendel

I first heard about Beowulf and Grendel when the director, Sturla Gunnarsson, mentioned during a post-screening Q&A of Rare Birds that he was heading off to Iceland to start work on it . It's still a year from release, but the screenwriter is interviewed here, and there are some stills.

JW: How much did you concern yourself with language, modern english contains many words they would not have used at the time the poem is set. Did you take this in to account with dialogue?

AB: Yes, very much. I wanted the dialogue to be accessible, colloquial, true to the characters, and – as much as possible – true to the time. But I’m working – as you note – in modern english.

The most significant choice I made was to try to sift out almost all latin-rooted words. Over 95% of the present dialogue is english rooted in old norse, old saxon, or germanic. the odd bit of frank/latin slips out from characters – a wandering and literate irish monk, the geats’ own poet… - who have cause to have crossed paths with other languages.

Hopefully it'll turn out better than the last time a film with Sarah Polley involved Iceland.

Posted by Bill Stilwell at October 08, 2004 12:56 PM

I took a course at UBC on Beowulf (in Old English, which I also studied). I can't see any movie not steering far, far away from the poem in order to make it marketable.

The title is a case in point: it's not Grendel, but Grendel's mother, who is Beowulf's worthy adversary, and the harder to kill.

I dig the director's last name, though: it means the same as my surname, though no relation.

Posted by: gill on October 8, 2004 3:23 PM
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