Helen of Troy (miniseries)
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|Helen of Troy|
|Written by||Ronni Kern|
|Directed by||John Kent Harrison|
With Rufus Sewell
and Stellan Skarsgård
|Theme music composer||Joel Goldsmith|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Cinematography||Edward J. Pai|
|Editor(s)||Michael D. Ornstein|
|Running time||177 minutes|
USA Cable Entertainment
|Distributor||Universal Home Entertainment|
|Original network||USA Network|
|Original release||April 20, 2003 (U.S.)|
Helen of Troy is a 2003 television miniseries based upon Homer's story of the Trojan War, as recounted in the epic poem, Iliad. This TV miniseries also shares the name with a 1956 movie starring Stanley Baker. It stars Sienna Guillory as Helen, Matthew Marsden as Paris, Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, James Callis as Menelaus, John Rhys-Davies as Priam, Maryam d'Abo as Hecuba, as well as Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus. The series was entirely shot on location in the islands of Malta.
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It begins with the birth of Paris, as well as Cassandra's prophecy that he would be the cause of Troy's destruction. Worried, his father, king Priam leaves him on Mount Ida, where he is found and raised by the shepherd Agelaus. When he is an adult, Paris goes of on a friendly fight with some other shepherds. One of them would kid around telling him about his goat named Stubos that got away again and he chases it to a cave where the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite appear. Hera offered him power while Athena offers her victory yet he chooses Aphrodite, who promises him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world.
Meanwhile, in Sparta, Helen sees Paris's judgement in a pool of water and happily accepts his choice of her love. She later meets the Mycenaean King, Agamemnon, who has come to claim her sister, Clytemnestra, as his bride, but is also immediately taken by Helen's attractiveness. During the wedding feast, after she noticed that everyone seems to be staring at her including Agamemnon and Menelaus, his brother, she is kidnapped by two Athenians. Helen learns the truth of her mother's death from Theseus, one of the men who kidnapped her, then they took her to Athens, where she falls for him, before her brother Pollux raids Athens and kills him in order to save her. As he is dying, Theseus stabs Pollux. In Sparta, Helen's father Tyndareus rages at his daughter, blaming her for losing his heir. He presents her to the many suitors who seek her hand, bidding them to do as they wish.
The suitors draw lots after swearing an oath suggested by clever Odysseus that if anyone disrespect her husband's claims to her, they should unite and wage war against him. Odysseus rules himself and Agamemnon out of the lot, since they are both married. They agree to the oath and Agamemnon's brother Menelaus wins. Agamemnon is visibly jealous.
Meanwhile, Paris' favorite bull is taken for the Trojan tribute games. Paris insists on competing, despite his father's protests. After winning in every competition and being recognized by his sister Cassandra, Paris is welcomed by an overjoyed to Troy. Cassandra, a seer, as well as his elder brother Hector are upset at their father's decision.
Paris is sent to Sparta to draw out a peace treaty with Sparta, Menelaus alone, which angers Agamemnon. His treaty is refused and both Menelaus and Agamemnon plot to have him murdered. While there, however, he encounters and recognizes Helen, while Menelaus is showing off his new bride by having her walk naked through one of his feasts. Paris later prevents her from committing suicide. He then gains her love and she helps him flee. Together they sail to Troy.
When Menelaus finds this out, he demands that his brother launch war on Troy and the former suitors are gathered to fulfill their oath. But the winds are not in their favor and after a month, it is revealed that the goddess Artemis wants Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter in return for favorable winds. He carries out the deed, despite a heavy heart.
Helen and Paris arrive at Troy with the Greek army at their heels. The Greeks send an embassy of Menelaus and Odysseus to demand Helen's return. Priam is at first reluctant to allow Helen to remain at Troy until he talks to her alone where she admits her love for Paris. Priam refuses, thus the Greeks plan an attack.
Ten years pass. Agamemnon agrees to end the war with a single combat, between Menelaus and Paris. If Menelaus wins, Helen will be returned. If Menelaus loses, the Trojans may keep her. Whatever the outcome, the Greeks have to leave Troy.
Agamemnon cheats, poisoning Menelaus' javelin without telling him. During the duel Paris is cut and the poison disorients him. Menelaus, however, does not take advantage of him; instead, they stop fighting and make peace between each other as a fog obscures them from view.
As the fog lifts, Agamemnon's cheating is exposed. Hector challenges Agamemnon to a duel that will end the war—this time, to the death. Achilles takes up the challenge, fighting for Agamemnon, but agrees to fight not for Helen but for his own honor. Achilles easily succeeds in killing Hector.
That night Helen, fearing for Paris's safety, goes to the seer Cassandra and asks to know what she can do to protect Paris. Cassandra replies that her only choice is to give herself to the Greeks. Helen agrees, presenting herself in Agamemnon's tent and offering a trade—her for the body of Hector. Agamemnon refuses, as he does not want his daughter's death to be in vain, as well as chases her around the camp, but Paris arrives in time to save her, challenging Agamemnon for the safety of Troy. Achilles charges at him, but Paris seizes a bow and shoots Achilles in the heel, killing him. Afterwards the Greeks attack him, but he is saved by Trojan soldiers and is reunited with Helen. Shortly thereafter, Agamemnon finds and stabs Paris. He dies in Helen's arms.
During Paris' funeral, the Greeks are reported to have sailed away—leaving a Trojan Horse, a massive wooden horse, on the shore. It is taken into the city and Troy celebrates late into the night. Unbeknownst to them though, there are some Greek soldiers inside the wooden horse. When they are all asleep, the Greeks come out and sack the city, slaying Priam and Hecuba. The great Agamemnon seats himself proudly on Troy's throne as the new emperor of the Aegean and ruler of the World. Agamemnon has his men bring Helen to his throne. Agamemnon strokes Helen's hair, restrains her and then begins to rape her. Menelaus tries to stop him, but is held back by Agamemnon's guards. Odysseus is also shocked at Agamemnon's act, but can do nothing.
The next morning, as the Greek soldiers ravage the ruins of Troy of its riches and take its people as slaves, Clytemnestra arrives in the royal palace of Troy, where she ventures into the royal pool. There, she finds Agamemnon and Helen, both naked. Agamemnon relaxes in triumph, while Helen sits near the pool, not saying a word. Clytemnestra covers her sister with a robe and sends her away, leaving her alone with Agamemnon. She tells him she comes for their daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon replies that she is not here. Clytemnestra replies "I know" then attacks, throwing her net-like shawl over her husband and stabs him repeatedly to death in the pool.
Helen wanders woefully through the ruined city, halting at the spot where Paris was slain. There, she sees an apparition of Paris and they embrace. Helen begs Paris to take her with him to the afterlife and he tells her that he has prepared a place for her, but she must wait until it is her time. He disappears and Menelaus arrives and draws his sword out. Helen prepares for her punishment, but Menelaus put his sword back and can do nothing but feel sorry for her. Helen tells him she cannot love him, but she "will follow". The two head back to the Greek ships, ready to live the rest of their lives as king and queen of Sparta, leaving Troy, a kingdom that was once the richest of all, in ruins.
- Sienna Guillory as Helen
- Matthew Marsden as Paris
- Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon
- John Rhys-Davies as King Priam of Troy
- Maryam d'Abo as Queen Hecuba
- Emilia Fox as Cassandra, Princess of Troy
- James Callis as Menelaus
- Daniel Lapaine as Hector
- Nigel Whitmey as Odysseus
- Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus
- Joe Montana (actor) as Achilles
- Katie Blake as Clytemnestra
- Craig Kelly as Pollux
- Kristina Paris as Iphigenia
- Mat Fraser as Calchas, seer of Artemis
Alignment with mythology
The film is placed in the early classical period rather than the correct late Bronze Age: the Greeks are shown with Iron Age classical hoplite dress and arms. Made on a relatively low budget, Helen of Troy was released at a time when interest in the subject was high due to the soon-to-be-released Troy.
The film also focuses more on the life of Helen herself rather than simply the Trojan War. The entire first half deals with Helen's life before Troy and includes a number of mythological facts that other versions either gloss over or omit, such as Helen's abduction by Theseus and the actual agreement of the Greek kings to use her marriage as their peace agreement.
In contrast to Troy (which was roughly based on the Iliad which itself only depicts some of the events of the final year of the war), the film tells much of the story of the War. Most notably, Helen of Troy features and discusses the intervention of the deities (the film's opening scene shows Hera, Athena and Aphrodite at the Judgment of Paris) as written by Homer. This does not mean, however, that it is more accurate, as a number of the characters (namely Paris, as stated above), do not resemble their Homeric counterparts. Both films feature the interpretation of Agamemnon as a domination-hungry tyrant, although this Helen of Troy adds a new dimension by addressing Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia to the deities.