300: Rise of an Empire
|Behold! Your ship ropes will fret me mightily!|
The Greeks knew enough to protect themselves with shields, with helmets, so why -- you can't help but ask yourself -- did they leave the rest of their body bare when they went into battle? The movie kind of suggests an answer -- mobility. These Greeks -- especially Themistocles, their hero admiral leader -- go through their opponents like parkour street obstacles met, sliced through, hopped over, hurdled, dodged and further then into the fray. Given how we see them battle, it would have been more appropriate not to see them testing their swords' sharpness but the oil applied to their skins' sleekness. "Yes, the olive-oil slather was very well-prepared -- good thing you were a merchant before joining our citizen army, young master Hestophles!"
|I'll athletically and elegantly glide through you all!|
Actually, this isn't quite fair. When muscles are so prominent and so well developed -- all extrusion -- they defy reason and actually come across as protection, armour: something that would instantly deflect a spear -- especially for their being slightly rounded; catch and also stop a sword, before it could take itself into the innards. But if I were to tell you the historical reason why Greek soldiers warred like this, went into battle with the one thing we've all learned many times that we should always aim for for it being the biggest target -- the chest -- unprotected, we'd recognize the truth of it better for having seen the absurdity of so many bare-torsoed soldiers imagining themselves the most invincible fighters ever.
Historically, they went into battle more to sacrifice themselves than to kill -- though they were of course still highly interested in that. They dressed not just in the most militarily advisable manner possible -- until some other culture superseded their advances, as iron weapons did bronze ones -- but as much to suit the psychology of the battlefield situation: what they were there for in the first place. And battlefields are about becoming infants once again -- infantry -- and dying in a great field of corpses, thereby being permanently fused with Killer Goddesses, of which this film, we note, actually has three.
That image the film lingers over -- of the 300 in a jigsaw-puzzle assembly of strewn bodies -- is as much a sought goal as finding the enemies' women and defiling their brains out -- an "image" we are also explicitly shown several times in the film, as if it were the penis or vagina of one whole film body the film had girded itself to brave showing entire -- like the human body in a Lars Von Trier film -- even as much it invites us to take possession of it to keep it part of film-making possibility, and therefore also experience it, participate in it, pour ourselves into it, adding leverage. You need a great sacrifice, the film argues -- even if just ostensibly to rally a whole people together, however much the lingering-over of the various fields of corpses in the film suggests it carries rather heavily its own powerful meaning and already-fulfilled purpose. You exist to serve one great female "goddess," lose your life for her, and thereby become all pure -- we certainly see this in the film, especially when Spartan Queen Gorgo finally enters the battle and Themistocles is delighted to defer to her, step aside for her, be smaller than her; and to completely humiliate and destroy enemy women. A split -- good mommy kept to yourself; bad mommy projected into enemy, and dispatched before she can do any harm to "you."
|The archetype image the sequel is hoping to prove equal to|
I mentioned that there were three goddesses in the film. Two are consistent throughout as being either the all-powerful good mommy or the all-vile bad mommy -- and neither of these includes the great assassin/plotter/slaughterer Artemisia we see throughout. Queen Gorgo is pretty much literally a war goddess, a terse visage of boundless revenge-instinct and pent-up fury, who could take down an army herself. You step to her side not just to count yourself amongst her train but to avert her countenance -- let her gorgon stare be, rather, unleashed onto the enemy!
|The strained, angry, terrifying "good" mother|
The other one possesses a train more literal -- Xerxes. Unique in the film, we see "her" dramatic backside even more than we do her decorated front, and it's to emphasize her as possessing female dress as much as to show the epic size of the army at her behest.
|Dressed for the occasion, with her glorious spawn|
She isn't a fighter. She stands in place, almost in relaxed-muscled repose, watching galleons of men conquest or die for her. She strikes us as near delicate as her jewelry; certainly as sensitive. And also as a fair bequeather of the gross human fetus "hunchback" won to her side, whom she'll surely encase and smother over in her Persian abode -- one laired great monster curled around her monstrous hapless spawn.
Artemisia, however, isn't always female. Sometimes she sits in her maternal throne and descends upon her "serf" commanders terse "disapprovals" with their service; but just as often she's sword in hand, and as a warrior, absolutely daunting. It's difficult to assert for sure that when she and Themistocles frontal-mate that they didn't in fact both victorily hump/hoist penises into each other. When he humps her from behind, the situation is admittedly more clear -- but then again, since here all we're seeing is -- finally! -- her (incredibly) impressive bared chest, which we know in this film is one's actually being appropriated into mannish territory, some new basis for gender confusion actually ends up bequeathed.
Her lover, Themistocles, has the face of a rat; buck-teeth. When he charges his way through the ships he carries an aspect of blight, and actually anticipated the other animal -- the horse -- charging his formidable carcuss across water and ships -- even if he's the only one that might snip his way through all the obtruding cords. His being noticeably less pretty than Artemisia, flawed in comparison to her -- bulked up and yet still not that impressive, with her remaining plainly evident as amongst human physical heights -- somehow seems as if it's part of the tragedy she has to suffer. More her impressive physical equal died at the head of the sacrificed 300 Spartans she never met in battle -- Gerard Butler's Leonidas. At the finish with her mostly alone to herself -- with Themistocles immediately having embarrassingly retreated to just one eagerly deferent component of Queen Gorgo's army -- the primary corpse amongst all other strewn, I imagined her twinned instead to him.
She tried mightily but failed, just like him -- cause for sensitivity and romance in a film of revenge-rapes and mass clumps of inconsequent bulked bodies for various demanding Mothers. "Go to him, Artemisia! You both stretched out a path of independence; in death, relief from a trap of thick-clotted life."