Achilles Goes Native in Troy

Alena Allen

Cathedral High School

Homer links Achilles and Hektor in the Iliad through their jointly held code of honor as well as through their positions as the number one warriors of their respective armies. Each man respects a fighter who stands firm, faces his enemy, and fights to the death.  Both demonstrate fierce loyalty to their loved ones: Hektor to his family and Achilles to Patroklos and Briseis. Director Wolfgang Petersen similarly links Achilles and Hektor in the film Troy, but he deepens their connection to each other through familial bonds when he makes Briseis the cousin of Hektor and thus in effect makes Achilles his "cousin-in-law." Briseis thus become the strong link between Achilles and the Trojans. 

This paper will analyze the several ways in which Petersen associates the character of Achilles with the Trojan "experience" in the film.  For example, Peterson uses subtle visual cues to link Achilles with the Trojans from the beginning of the film. When Achilles teaches swordsmanship to Patroklos in Phthia, he wears a blue tunic in the same color that Hektor and Paris were wearing when they sailed out of Sparta. Throughout the film Trojans often wear this color, yet no other Greek other than Achilles ever dons that shade. Further, just as Trojan Paris gives Helen the love token of a pearl necklace, so Achilles gives the pearly shell necklace that his mother Thetis has made for him first to Patroklos and then later to Briseis. These visual signs underline the connection between Achilles and the Trojan royal family via his love affair with Briseis. When Priam comes to collect Hektor's body, Achilles addresses the dead Hektor as "brother," and makes it clear that he respects Priam whereas he has no respect for Agamemnon. By the end of the film, Achilles seems to abandon his traditional lust for fame and its resulting immortality and to embrace the more "family values" code followed by Hektor, who tells his Trojan troops: "All my life I've lived by a code, honor the Gods, love your woman, and defend your country." As Troy falls, Achilles races through the city in order to find his beloved Briseis and even kills some of his fellow Greek soldiers while saving her. His final identification with the Trojans appears to be complete when the Greek army sets up his funeral pyre in a courtyard of the burnt city rather than next to the Greek ships on the beach. This paper will conclude with an examination of the cinematic and narrative reasons why Petersen chose to portray Achilles "going native" in Troy.


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