The research in this presentation aims to identify and analyze significant and different key points derived from
the popular 2007 film, ‘300’, an adaption of the 1998 comic book series by Frank Miller, using the following published and online sources:
300: The Art of the Film by Frank Miller and Zack Snyder Unpopular Culture: Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s by Bart Beaty The 300 Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh Inside ‘300’ by Gerri Miller The 300 controversy by Dan Hassler-Forest
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“Hollywood’s is intent on conveying a certain “image” of the Classics. Perhaps there is a desire to “Nordify” ancient Greece just as there is a desire to “Orientalize” the ancient Iranians. At least the portrait of King Leonidas in the movie was consistent with the depictions of ancient Greeks as seen in the vases of Classical Greece.” (Farrokh, <no date>)
- “The script is not an attempt in typical Hollywood fashion to recreate the past as a costume drama. Instead it is based on Frank Miller’s (of Sin City fame) comic book graphics and captions. Miller’s illustrated novelette of the battle adapts themes loosely from the well-known story of the Greek defense, but with deference made to the tastes of contemporary popular culture.” (Davis, 2006:Foreword) - Because the techniques used in the film such as an unreal and CG generated world and an unrealistic and unnatural color palette, mostly consisting of de-saturated browns, reds and blues, the film gained some attention from its new style, differentiating itself from other films of its kind. “Our skies are created using a blend of photographic and watercolour elements, giving the backgrounds a unique textured feel without being entirely painted.”
- The portrayal of Persians was not 100% accurate. Hollywood seemed to be catering more to a ‘dumbed-down’ audience.
- The portrayal of the messenger, the emissary sent to talk with Leonidas and other Persians were also played by black actors.
The Cultural Context of 300
What inspired the film-makers and what do audiences expect out of this genre?
- 300 was originally a comic book created by Dark Horse Comics. -The film draws upon this comic-book style for much of its art direction. -The film also seems to draw upon other films for inspiration, primarily 'The Matrix' with its flo-mo style cinematography. 300 came after the matrix and probably thought to draw some inspiration from its camera techniques. -Movies depicting events in history may sometimes be considered boring without artistic licensing, so more action and more altering of history is done in order to cater to the needs of an audience. -The audience does not want a boring film.
Herodotus, often referred to as ‘The Father of History’, was a Greek philosopher and historian, constructing accounts of history through effective narrative and the systematic gathering of materials necessary to create these accounts. The historian was the most well-known to have recounted and written down the encounters at the battle of Thermopylae. His stories were used and told through generations, which is why most of us know this event to have existed.
Drawing upon Herodotus' accounts and stories of the battle, Frank Miller created the original ‘300’ comic book series which he then later produced as a film adaptation. Favouring dark noir style art direction and artistic interpretations, Miller’s work on both the comic and the film both defines him as the only one of his kind, making his creations his own. The frequent use of de-saturated, grim backgrounds and innovative incorporation of his art style from his comics into his films.
Historical Example: Accuracy to History
-Originally, Xerxes’ immortals weren’t clad in black robes and a silver mask. They were wrapped in purple cloth with masks wrapped around their lower face to protect them from sandstorms. 300’s immortals were left to artistic licensing.
-Actual Spartan warriors were fully clad in armour unlike the film's portrayal. They were made to identify more with the traditional Greek sculpture, as mentioned below.
Historical Example: Bodily Idealism, Spartan Soldiers and Classical Greek Idealism
-Examples of classical Greek idealism identify primarily with the Spartan soldiers who seem to wear nothing in terms of armour besides leather pants, arm guards and a pair of boots. -On-set, the actors’ abs were even painted in with make-up in order to accentuate this identity with the classical Greek concept of idealistic bodies in sculpture. -The antagonists, the Persians, only seem to have one member of their ‘faction’ which bares their body: self-proclaimed God-King, Xerxes. -He proclaimed himself as a god both in the film and according to Herodotus’ accounts, adds support to the theory that the filmmakers used the concept of revealing clothing in order to connect Greek classical art and the god-like ‘perfect’ figure.
Contemporary Example: Modern Iraq
- The arid, barren and in places sandy landscapes of Iraq could have been what inspired Miller's portrayal of ancient Greece. - The warfare in Iraq which lasted from 2003 until 2010, was essentially western civilization invading the home country of another people, much like the invasion of Greece by the Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae.
Contemporary Example: The Modern Age of Comic Books (1980 – Today)
- In dealing with Frank Miller’s original comic book, ‘300’, the comic itself began work in the midst of the Modern Age of Comic Books. - It was a period of time in comic book history from the 1980s onward where storylines grew more complex, darker and their characters became more complex in personality and psychology. - The age was primarily dominated by men and women in capes and brightly coloured outfits showing off their idealistic, god-like figures and it is this period in time that would have most likely influenced Miller while creating his comic.
* After generations of story-telling, accounts of events in history have gone through a ‘Chinese whispers’ effect and not all of what we know from said accounts may be fact.
* Modern audiences expect a more action-packed film in order to keep them on the edge of their seats and excited to watch more, hence as to why film-makers use artistic licence.
* Comic books and ancient Greek art have a lot in common in terms of idealism. All of their main characters such as Marvel's and DC's superheroes and 300's Spartan soldiers are all fit, healthy and have the 'perfect' figure. Physically, they seem to have no flaws and almost seem godly in comparison to normal people.
Snyder Z, Miller F (2006) 300: The Art of the Film, Milwaukee, Dark Horse Books. Beaty B (2007) Unpopular Culture: Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. Farrokh, K (<Date Unavailable>) The 300 Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction, http://www.ghandchi.com/iranscope/Anthology/KavehFarrokh/300/index.htm (Accessed 15/03/12) Miller, G(<Date Unavailable>) Inside ‘300’, http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/inside-300.htm (Accessed 15/03/12) Hassler-Forest, Dan (<Date Unavailable>) The 300 controversy: a case study in the politics of adaptation http://www.uwosh.edu/filmandhistory/controversial_films/films/300.php (Accessed 21/03/2012)
Justin Marozzi (2009) [Illustration of Herodotus] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/artsandculture/3397653/The-Histories-by-Herodotus-Justin-Marozziscompanion-volume.html (Accessed 21/03/12) Wikipedia (2009) [Photo of Frank Miller] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Miller_(comics) (Accessed 19/03/12) Ahreeman X (2007) [Image of Traditional Persian Immortals] http://iranpoliticsclub.net/history/civilization-persia1/index.htm (Accessed 19/03/12) <Author Unknown> (<Date Unknown>) [Film Still] http://www.allmoviephoto.com/photo/2007_300_038.html (Accessed 19/03/12) Brandon Dayton (<Date Unknown>) [Photograph] http://brandondayton.com/website/tag/greek-sculpture/ (Accessed 19/03/12) Shaun Mullen (2007) [Photgraph] http://themoderatevoice.com/15705/the-us-in-iraq-strap-yourself-to-the-tree-with-roots-you-aint-goin-nowhere/ (Accessed 19/03/12) <Author Unknown> (2011) [Comic Book Page Scan] http://supahcute.com/2011/04/20/pop-sequentialism-comic-art-of-the-modern-age/ (Accessed 19/03/12)