Chris Davies

Department: Film Studies
Discipline: Film Studies

Project Summary

"Is This Sparta? Allegory, Analogy, and Warfare in the Post 9/11 Ancient Historical Epic Film".

Inspired by the extensive academic research currently in existence discussing Hollywood ancient historical epics of the 1950s and 1960s and their analogous and allegorical significance in relation to the Cold War, post WWII fear of tyranny and rebuilding in American, US domestic idealism, the Civil Rights movement and so forth, my thesis questions whether similar contemporary significance can be found within recent entries in the genre.

The films and topics under analysis are as follows:

Chapter 1: Is This Sparta? 300 and America - case study of 300 (Snyder, 2007), how the film adapts history through the remediation of The 300 Spartans (Maté, 1963) and Frank Miller’s graphic novel, and how these sources affect our interpretation of the film. I examine popular interpretations of the film, particularly those which draw analogous or allegorical readings from the text, and assess the validity of these in relation to the film’s marketing, liminal genre status, and comic book iconography. I also discuss the various cultural similarities between the Spartans and US military.

Chapter 2: Tellers of Tales: Alexander and Troy – building on the discussion of 300, I expand the analysis to include Oliver Stone’s Alexander (2004) and Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy (2004). In particular, I discuss how these films portray history through the unreliable narrator: Ptolemy in Alexander, Odysseus in Troy and Dilios in 300. I then contrast their creation of meaning and possible corruption of truth to the filmmaker’s own treatment of history and how the media’s representation of the director affects how we interpret the film: something that can be integral to identifying an analogy or allegorical message in the texts.

Chapter 3: Land of the Free, Rome of the Brave – after outlining the relationship between America and Rome in cinema and history, I discuss the Roman Britain films King Arthur (Fuqua, 2004), Centurion (Marshall, 2010) and The Eagle (MacDonald, 2011). While these films share a number of similarities to other Roman epics, they lack the visual iconography which commonly leads to comparisons between Rome and America. However, I then argue that these films employ the iconography of the quintessential American genre, the Western, in order to render the Roman occupation of Britain as symbolic for contemporary Roman imperialism in the Middle East.

Chapter 4: [currently being researched] – this chapter assess mythical and religious epics of recent years, namely Immortals (Singh, 2011), Clash of the Titans (Leterrier, 2010), Wrath of the Titans (Liebesman, 2012), Agora (Amenábar, 2009) and The Passion of the Christ (Gibson, 2004).

Supervisory Team

Dr James Lyons

Dr Joe Kember