Monday, February 07, 2005

More on Alexander

My friend Joseph Nicholas brought to my attention Neil Faulkner's review of Alexander, in Current World Archaeology 9, pp. 48-50. Faulkner's a lot more enthusiastic about the film than I am, and has some interesting points to make (though the "very English" Christopher Plummer is actually Canadian). I'm not sure that he's right to interpret the film's message as apologia for (American) empire - that seems to me a reading that one can make, but unlikely to be what the director of Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July intended, and certainly not one seen by many critics (otherwise they would not have panned the film so much in America). The problem is that Stone has tried so hard not to impose a message on the film, to let Alexander's story stand on its own merits. But I think Faulkner's exactly right to characterize much of the criticism of the film as 'bigoted or childish'. Certainly, from the moment that I first saw the negative reviews coming out of the US, I had a feeling that they weren't going to help me make my own mind up about the film.

Meanwhile, this story reveals how Alexander's legacy is still manipulated for modern political purposes. In India, the film has been cut by 25 minutes, and goes straight from Alexander's wounding in the battle against the elephants to his death, giving the impression that the Indian King Porus killed Alexander. Thus the film is transformed (without Stone's knowledge) into an Indian nationalist epic.

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