Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gerald Butler and Icelandic Horses--Beowulf & Grendel

Sturla Gunnarson, a Icelandic-Canadian director, filmed the move Beowulf & Grendel in Iceland. The film is based on one of the oldest works of literature "Beowulf,"  a poem written down sometime around the 8th century.  It is about the hero Beowulf of the Geats coming to aid Hrothgar, King of the Danes, who is under attack by the troll Grendel.  Gerald Butler plays Beowulf and Stellan Skarsgardplays Hrothgar.   

As Gunnarson states:
“I have been wanting to do a story that has been tied to my tribal, my ancestral, past for a long time,” says Gunnarsson.“When I started to think about [Beowulf], it just seemed to be such a great fit for me, because while it’s written in the eighth century by Anglo-Saxons, it recounts events that take place in the sixth century in a pagan Norse country, so it’s about my ancestors.”...His attraction to the material isn’t just intellectual, though. “The appeal is that it’s a great story, it’s an example of the hero myth,” he says. “Every Western you’ve ever seen is based on Beowulf — so the story itself has tremendous bones, and it really appealed to me, the idea of doing something that was kind of a ‘scary’ movie.”


The movie itself contains no computer generated effects.  The scenery and action is all real and the director tried for as realistic a historic look as possible.  One of the opening scenes of the movie of the Viking ship sailing through the ice floes in the bay is breathtaking.

Since the movie was filmed in Iceland, the Vikings ride Icelandic horses.  You get to see how the horses were used in battle and in everyday life.  Although reviews of the movie were mixed, it is fun to watch the horses tolting through the Icelandic country side.  In one interview, Gerald Butler says it was a blast to ride these horses into the sunset in one scene.  And reading the reviews of the movie is very entertaining.  Some critics display their lack of historical understanding by complaining that real Vikings didn't ride "ponies."

And the beauty of Iceland shines in this movie. The movie is filmed near Vik, located on the south central part of Iceland.  In 1991, Islands Magazine named  the local beach as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world.   As Wendy Ord, production assistant states in her weekly blog, "Vik is a HUGE tourist area because it is one of the most beautiful places – we will shoot there on cliffs that are higher than the grand canyon…on glaciers that are currently receding and shaping the mountains as they go (yes the ice age is still here) …on mountain streams that you can drink and bath in (if you like glacier-cold water) in lava fields that go on for as far as the eye can see (from the last time a volcano erupted – about 6 years ago) LAVA when it cools leaves a landscape that is not possible —weird shapes have bubbled up, frozen and stand eerie and beautiful…Moss that is 12 inches thick grows there and now it is covered in tiny flowers that are BRIGHT florescent pink, purple and blood red… It is – spooky, but it takes your breath away .. We are shooting on BLACK sand beaches that go on un-interrupted for MILES and there is not a soul on them (except of course for the “hidden people”:-) …We will shoot in caves that are carved by wind and volcanic eruptions deep in the earth…(with holes to the surface that put beams of light down into them and that any unsuspecting animal or human could fall into –which, of course, one of our characters in the movie does)…And we will shoot (and bathe in at lunchtime) in natural swimming pools which are steaming and hot with minerals spurting up from the centre of the earth in geysers of steam. The steam drifts up from these “hot springs” and floats across the mountaintops in rivers of clouds that surround the peaks… In all of our locations – there is no (I mean NO) sign of humans. Our film is set in 500 AD when the monks from Ireland set out in tiny boats made of skin and bone and trusted the hand of God to take them somewhere – this is how Iceland was originally settled and so the people are very religious (to this day)…All of the folklore is connected back to the time of Mary – but they are not stories that you have heard…(ex. the “hidden people” are the descendents of the children that Mary did not want God to see….hmmmmm)."

The filming in Iceland was beset by disaster after disaster--from tremendous windstorms, flying rocks, a sinking ship full of stars with no life jackets, etc.  A documentary called The Wrath of Gods was made.  Check out the following link and be sure and watch minute 4 of the clip.  Over the filming of the scene, the narrator talks about hiring a crew of "specialty riders" to ride Icelandic horses up and down the beach at speed.  The horses were afraid of the huge waves so the riders tried to get them into the water.  Unfortunately, the "specialty riders" were inebriated early in the morning so the riding was truly "special."  Some of the cast and crew believed the movie was cursed.  A pagan priest "blessed" the production but suffered some broken bones in a freak accident shortly after the blessing.

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