Opening 5 Apr 2007
It’s 480 B.C. and a Persian messenger arrives at the camp of the Spartans and King Leonidas. The messenger lives long enough to announce an imminent Persian attack. Before this crucial scene, we are given a little historical background of Leonidas and his hard education in martial arts which is typical for all Spartan boys. Leonidas sorts out his recruits and accepts those who can leave an heir in the home to carry on, since returning alive is an uncertain option. Before the actual battle of Thermopylae, there is a bit of boasting and strutting and muscle flexing. In the end, Leonidas and his 7000 men are victorious against impossible odds set by King Xerxes and his 120,000 Persians. The victors return home, except for 300 loyal fighters. They remain to face the Persians once again. These baddies have raised a counterattack, this time from behind, having been shown a secret pathway by a Spartan traitor named Ephiales, who bears grudges. Leonidas and his friends were mean to him; they never shared the women nor took him seriously, just because he was an ugly, crippled hunchback who couldn’t fight. So there.
This film is based on the comic by Frank Miller who also gave us Sin City. Director Zack Snyder filmed it on a green screen using blue box techniques, so that, although he has real actors, the overall effect is that of a comic. This film is for anyone interested in new filming techniques, computer games, comics and perhaps Greek legends, such as this one by Heroditus. 300 showed out of competition at the 2007 Berlinale. (Becky Tan)
The film 300 is director Frank Snyder’s screenplay adaptation from Frank Miller’s graphic novel and comic series (also titled 300), recounting the Persian-Greek Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. One of the most revered battles of all time; it has inspired legends, poetry, songs, novels, films and even a television series. Synder chooses to retell the battle through the eyes of Leonidas, the King of Sparta; one of the history’s most legendary warriors. His zeal and courage have been held in high esteem throughout history as an example of bravery, loyalty and honor. He is so revered that leaders throughout history have emulated his tactics for battle and have adapted them to their own situation or gain. Therefore, it is not hard to understand why the Grecian warriors followed him to perform extraordinary duty.
The Greek city of Sparta housed the finest and strongest military among the Grecian city-states and their renowned navy was unbeatable. However, during this era the Persian King Xerxes was on the war path to control the world. His fierce and mighty army of hundreds of thousands was conquering one Greek territory after another with only slight resistance. If Greece was to have any chance of resisting a full take over by the Persians, then the city-states had to join forces against the vast approaching army of soldiers and war animals. Time was of the essence, so under the command of Leonidas, 1600 of the strongest Grecian warriors gathered to meet the Persians on the front line. The success of their battle plan allowed Leonidas to send home all of the warriors earlier than promised, except for his heroic Spartan army of 300. These men were the history makers who met the Persians in the canyon of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
I was fascinated with how the film cleverly joined an ancient battle and cutting edge graphic technology. At times images were surreal due to use of dark, gothic color tones combined with slow, strobe-like digital movement. The technology that is available to filmmakers today is incredible and Synder has effectively tapped into those resources. For example, I was amazed how the art direction took battle scenes of horrific violence and softened the awful bloodshed by slowing the frame-rate and syncopating it with splashes of color, just as a master painter might work on a canvas. The remarkable cinematography ignited the ancient Greek spirit for conquest and connected to the modern movie audience. As the credits began to roll, 75% of the filled theater (where it was shown out of competition at the 2007 Berlinale) spontaneously and in unison shouted out the Spartan battle cry with which Leonidas had inspired his troops: “AAAAAUUUUUHHHHAAH”! We were Spartans all. (Karen Pecota)