Saturday, 8 December 2007


I happened to watch the film 300 this week with a friend. The film is adapted from a graphic novel, based on the ancient Battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persians, and is shot with that kind of aesthetic. But I have to say that it wasn't the most edifying film I have wacthed - it had plenty of violence and a couple of erotic scenes. The fast forward had to be used a number of times. Neither was the film interesting - the characters are one dimensional and the plot predictably bland. I kind of regret watching it now.

However, my real problem with the film were its ethical undertones, which were far more disturbing than the violence and occasional sex. What do I mean? Well, it doesn't require a great flight of imagination to read this film against the background of contemporary world politics - the courageous West against the wicked East. The Persian baddies (Iraqis and Iranians?) are vicious, enslaved and under the boot of a self-exalting tyrant. The Spartan goodies (the West) are under the leadership of their strong, courageous king and constantly speak of freedom. The small group of Spartans, militarily far superior to the Persians but completely outnumbered, gladly give their lives in defence of their country. There is, therefore, a strongly jingoistic flavour to the film. Further, the Spartans are harldy attractive heroes or models. Their culture is violent, proud, patriarchal, militaristic and fascist. They evince the worst kind of masculinity. And it is a reminder that courage for a bad cause is not really courage. To be honest, I thought the best ending would have been if everyone had just wiped each other out and we could start all over again....

Were the politics intended? The producer says no, but can't producers at least take responsibility for the ethical implications of their work? It would not be hard for film watchers to draw implicit ethical lessons from this film. You can't just present things as heroic in a film context and not take responsibility for its effect on people.