Having read Homer’s 𝘖𝘥𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘺 for the sole purpose of being able to say: “I read 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘥𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘺” in literally every conversation regardless of context, I thought it’d be fitting to review the Coen brothers’ vague adaptation and continue to boast my literary achievements through criticism.
The only themes that 𝘖 𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘵 𝘛𝘩𝘰𝘶 (𝟸𝟶𝟶𝟶) imitates from 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘥𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘺 are the tale of travel, the lure of temptation, and family-fuelled perseverance. The actual events that transpire in the film can loosely be traced to the epic poem, but the links are hilariously ambiguous, which makes more sense when you realise Joel and Ethan Coen 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘥𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘺.
The consensus when creating adaptations is reading and understanding the original content, and as the Coen’s are notorious for their separation from medium conventions, and socio/political commentary of the biz, one might argue 𝘖 𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 is satirical in its reworking of Homer’s epic.“You wanted a chronologically similar variation of a 3000-year-old poem?” The brothers sneer as Clooney feeds them crème brûlée, “Too bad! Here’s a period piece which also serves as a cynical caricature of capitalism!” The true colours of the film aren’t as straightforward as ‘creative appropriation,’ but much more critical and bleeding with misanthropy.
𝘖 𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘵 𝘛𝘩𝘰𝘶 is the story of Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Nelson), three escaped convicts who venture through Mississippi, on the hunt for supposedly buried treasure. The road in which they travel is meant to align with the seas sailed by Odysseus and his crew, governed by Poseidon, which is embodied by Sheriff Cooley (Daniel von Bargen) and his band of officers. The road is clustered with absurdities which exist to reap hell on Everett and his compadres, and just as Odysseus was tempted and tested by fatal divinities, the three cons fall victim to similar destinies.
As an entity separate from 𝘖𝘥𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘺, the film evokes a sense of embarrassment for the old-timey-U.S. As nostalgic as wide landscapes and simpler lives come across, the implication of historical pride is torn away by the likes of glutenous fat-cats and the K.K.K., reminding us of the existent societal atrocities, past and present.
The Coen’s addiction to characterized stereotypes not only accentuate the cynical realities of their many worlds, but further implicate the decadence of our own. Whilst the stereotypes can be comical in their vulgarity, they exist to salute an outdated flag that is still ever-present, such as the heavy-belted capitalist, or a Believers incapability to distinguish between Church and Hammer.
The Coen’s finalise their misanthropic tendencies with a glorious flood, purging the valley in preparation for a changing and modernising South. What’s hilariously pessimistic about this is that the nature of the flood—whether secular or an act of divinity—condemns humankind entirely. If the flood was Government-orientated, then religion has ultimately been rendered redundant, and we must answer to ourselves. However, if it were in fact an answered prayer, then the flooding of the valley is an imitation of the Genesis Flood; our actions upon Earth require an apocalypse to rectify.
This sheer pessimism isn’t newfound territory in the vast and obscure land of the Coen’s. Rather, it’s more common than not. Almost every title of theirs belittle men to lonely, troublesome specks in a dusty galaxy, and we witnessed a similar form of 𝘖 𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳’s Eschatology in 𝘉𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘰𝘯 𝘍𝘪𝘯𝘬 (𝟷𝟿𝟿𝟷). It would be lazy to think that these commentaries, gnomic or not, weren’t inspired by our own falls from Grace as well as Odysseus’. The Coen’s worlds aren’t created ex nihilo, they have merely removed the rose-tinted glasses.
Although widely criticised, in the end you must ask yourself: what am I 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 mad about? Do I think ‘adaptation’ and ‘imitation’ should be synonymous? Are stereotyped characterisations too slanderous when they’re saluting the flag?
When the flood does come, what am I gonna ride on?