‘’Troy’’ is a 2004 epic film, based on Homer’s ‘’Iliad’’, which aspires to be more than a summer blockbuster. In my opinion, it achieves that goal more often than not in its 162 minutes theatrical release (even though I recommend the director’s cut). Of course, there are many inaccuracies as far as Homer’s original text is concerned. Many plot changes have been made to the original story. For example in the ‘’Iliad,’’ the Greek Gods play a major role in the waging of the war and to its outcome, but in ‘’Troy’’ we get a more realistic approach with the Gods-absent. Another example is the climactic battle between Achilles and Hector which was quite different than the one depicted in Homer’s epic poem.
‘’Troy’’ begins with a fight between Achilles and Boagrius and the audience is immediately introduced to Achilles’ abilities as a warrior. He slays his formidable opponent with a stroke of his sword. We also get a look at his defiant spirit when after the duel he proclaims he has no king when offered the scepter of king Triopas to bring it to his king Agamemnon.
In the meantime, Menelaus, king of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon, makes peace with Priam king of Troy his brother’s archenemy via the ambassadors from Troy the two princes, Hector and Paris, much to his brother’s dismay. Agamemnon’s goal is to control all of Greece and expand to the whole of the Aegean. The only thing standing in his way is the city-state of Troy.
His opportunity arises when Paris a known womanizer falls in love and steals Menelaus’ wife Helen when leaving from Sparta to Troy. Menelaus asks for his brother’s help to get back Helen and Agamemnon accepts immediately. The greatest war begins. And as it is proclaimed in the movie ‘’We need the greatest warrior’’. Enter Achilles.
Aside from the aforementioned changes that are a sometimes necessary compromise between the 2.700 years old text and the present day Hollywood movie morality and plot convenience, the film delivers and offers many valuable life lessons and insights to human psychology.
One’s quest for Immortality can walk hand in hand with one’s Doom
Achilles is haunted by his quest for immortality. He aspires to be remembered for all eternity. At first, when he is asked to participate in the war he is skeptical. After visiting his mother Thetis who is a deity, he is presented with two options. One is to stay home and live a long happy life, have children and die an old unglorified man. The other is to voyage through the Aegean to Troy and fight in the war, achieve Kleos (Greek: κλέος, glory) and become a legend but never return home alive. In that dilemma, Achilles chooses the latter.
In order to achieve things in life, one may have to sacrifice others. It may not be one’s life but it can be other greatly important ones. You might have to sacrifice leisure time, moments with family and your personal wellbeing. You should be very conscious about your decision to chase your dreams. But of course, you are not a Greek hero so you don’t have to make such absolute decisions or generally deal in absolutes. Be flexible but be aware of the effort needed and the sacrifices ahead.
The battle against Oblivion is the curse of Great Men
The theme of beating oblivion is central to the film. The movie itself opens with the following words, delivered by Sean Bean’s Odysseus:
“Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?”.
Achilles longs for glory in the battlefield so that his name be remembered. Agamemnon’s goal is to control all of Greece and the Aegean to Asia Minor. That way he will erect statues everywhere and carve his name in stone. Again, you are not a Greek epic character and you don’t need to have statues made for you but there is a lesson to be learned here. What will you do that’ll outlive you? What will you do that will have people remember you by? You should strive for a life worth being remembered. It does not matter if it’s remembered by thousands or even by one man after you are gone.
Revenge can cause (even) greater suffering
After some confrontations between the Greeks and the Trojans Achilles who is in love with Briseis, a priestess of royal descent who was taken as spoils of war from the temple of Apollo, decides to leave the war after all. His cousin Patroclus greatly disappointed with the decision wears Achilles’ armor and leads his men into battle.
Hector who mistakes Patroclus (as all of the Greeks did as well) confronts and wounds him fatally. When his helmet is taken off his true identity is revealed. Hector surprised as he has no other choice but to take his life anyway.
After the death of Patroclus by Hector, Achilles is infuriated and challenges the Crown Prince to a duel in which he (Achilles) kills his foe. War causes great suffering to those involved but revenge is no remedy. Vengeance did not bring Patroclus back and all that was accomplished by Achilles avenging him was for another man to be sent to Hades.
Many times in life you might feel that someone has done you wrong. Holding a grudge is only going to make things worse. Hatred consumes the one who hates. You should aim for your goal and not stand still in life. Hatred and wanting to get even for something can hold you back. I’m not saying that you should let everything go and let injustice reign but that you should not allow your mind to stall.
There can be respect between enemies
One of the most powerful and tragic scenes in the movie is the one after the duel. Priam, king of Troy, in the middle of the night, sneaks up and enters Achilles’ tent. The Greek hero is taken by surprise, even more so after Priam kisses his hands and begs him to give back his son’s body so that the proper burial rituals are observed. Priam’s bold and humble plea takes Achilles out of his furious state and leads him to eventually agree.
It is said that we can be measured by the worth of our enemies. I hold that to be of great importance. We are defined by the opposition to our actions. An obstacle is what makes us want to move forward, what makes us become better to overcome it. A rival is precisely that. In our struggle against each other, we become better. So, an enemy is not to be hated but cherished for he provides the opportunity for improvement. And finally, Priam’s actions show that there can be respect between adversaries.
A new beginning is always possible
After all these and after many attempts by the Greek army to enter Troy by force the cunning Odysseus finds the solution to the problem: the Trojan Horse. Some Greeks hide inside a wooden horse which is supposedly an offer to Poseidon for a safe trip back home. Meanwhile, the greek fleet is hidden away from the beaches of Troy so that it seems like the Greeks left. The Trojans fearing the Gods take the Horse inside the city. In the nighttime, the Greeks get out of the Horse, signal the soldiers who are hidden and waiting outside the walls of Troy. They finally are able to breach Troy’s defense. By the end of the movie the whole of Troy is burned, and Achilles dies in the hands of Briseis.
Even though Troy’s end is tragic we are shown that some of the Trojans lead to Prince Paris escape and are going somewhere else to begin a new life. People’s lives are filled with moments where an end comes. That may be in the professional field or maybe in a relationship or a marriage. Even though it may be tough, life is a constant cycle of beginnings & ends. You can always start over, just like the Trojans.