Helen of Troy
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Acclaimed presenter of historic documentaries, Bettany Hughes, embarks on a journey across the eastern Mediterranean to discover the truth about HELEN OF TROY, the woman blamed for causing the Trojan War. Following weapons experts, the two-hour film shows how the conflict in Helens name would have been fought, unraveling the reality from the myths and putting flesh on the face that launched a thousand ships.
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Sienna Gullory plays Helen as a pouting supermodel with a face that may launch a thousand surfboards at best, but Rufus Sewell ('Dangerous Beauty') makes a wickedly dashing Agamemnon and veteran John Rhys-Davies ('Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'The Lord of the Rings') is perfect as doomed King Pryam. Hecuba (Maryam D'Abo) looks great for a mother of fifty sons and twelve daughters! The rest of the cast I can't tell who they are or where I've seen them (Theseus was the KGB villain in 'Ronin' and Menelaus, the bumbling husband in 'Tracy Takes On'), but they all play their parts splendidly, particularly Cassandra and Clytemnestra...
Ms. Hughes takes the viewer on a guided tour of Greece and Asia (modern day Turkey) in order to search for the woman known as Helen beginning in her native Sparta where we are introduced to the culture, dress and politics of Mycenaean age Greece. The DVD goes to great lengths not only to find what life was like for women like Helen in Mycenaean culture but also looks at the remarkable independent spirit of Greek women of that age. Even their appearance is a subject of the investigation.
The video, of course, centers on Helen's role in the competition/rivalry between Ilios (Troy) on the periphery of the Hitite Empire and the up-and-coming Greeks across the Aegean sea represented by Mycenae and the overlordship of Agamemnon. The politics of the ancient world is covered as is the military technology of the day.
The story of the Trojan War is told and explained with Helen at the center and I think it gives the viewer already familiar with the story of the Trojan War a different "angle" or perspective on that ancient of conflicts which comes down to us through Homer's poem.
The only criticism is that, over and over again, Helen is referred to as a "heroine". I suspect that it's too "politically-incorrect" to refer to her as a powerless person caught up in events far greater than her own story but that's exactly what she was. She wasn't a heroine in any way and I found the constant reference to her in this fashion to be forced and annoying.
Notwithstanding, this is a well-made production and covers many topics from ancient religion to culture to warfare quite well. It was informative and enjoyable and, with one criticism, still garners four stars from this viewer.