Clash of the Titans (1981) Cultural Accuracy Essay.
The classic cinematic masterpiece “The Clash of the Titans” tells the tale of Perseus, one of the first great hero’s of ancient Greece. The film has excellent set and costume design with very accurate depictions of ancient Greek culture. From comparing the art and architecture featured in the film to the examples we learned about in class and other examples I found myself, the film appears to be set around the high to late Greek classical period and also features influences from the Near East.
Perseus is supposed to have founded Mycenae, meaning the era the movie appears to take place in is closer to the time the tale originated than when it supposedly takes place. This classic Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda was one of the first founding myths and hero tales of ancient Greece (“That’s Greece”). Also one of the most certain ways we can tell the tale is set in Greek times is because the king of the gods is called “Zeus” whereas if it were Roman times he would be called “Jupiter”.
The first part of film takes place on the Attic island of Seriphos. The director, Desmond Davis, decided to shot the film in England because the appropriate locations in America such as the Grand Canyon and coastal California are easily recognizable because of their overuse by Television. England has diverse geography largely unfamiliar to American audience; they also shot at several locations in Spain and Pestume in southern Italy for Medusa sequence. In the Mount Olympus scene the goddess’ are seen wearing a variety of toga styles, some featuring a deep v-neck, while others wide arms holes with open sleeves with slits such as the one depicted in Athena, Herakles, and “Atlas with the Apples of the Hesperides” metope from the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Geece (Figure 1). Zesus’ throne room at Mount Olympus has large gold griffins guarding entrance reminiscent of Babylonian works at Lamassu, citadel of Sargon II in Dur Sharrukin, Iraq (Figure 2).
The floor of the throne room is decorated with an inlaid ceramic mural. The small statuettes of mortals Zeus manipulates have contrapposto stances in the fashion of the late classical period Greece. Zeus’ thrown is marble featuring asymmetrical adornments, a gold serpent coiled on one side and a gold lion on the other. Zeus sports a thin laurel that appears to be gold, and also wears a toga with long sleeves. Zeus is an old man with beard and Poseidon appears very similar, this plays of the traditional depictions of the gods such as Zeus from Cape Artemision in Greece circa 450 BCE (Figure 3). All these facts place the apparent time period of the movie in the ancient Greek classical period. City of Argos has buildings with large Doric columns, wall paintings, and parapets with crenellation. It also features a large 30+ foot statue of bearded man, possibly King Acrisius, in a slight contrapposto stance. The soldiers of Argos have ancient Greek helmets with vertical dorsal horsehair decoration like those found around the fifth century BCE (Snodgrass).
Also, the real city of Joppa is in modern day Israel near Tel-Aviv, which explains the presence of near-east culture such as Keffiyehs and Babylonian statues of winged beasts with human heads in the same fashion as those found at Lamassu, citadel of Sargon II, Dur Sharrukin, Iraq (Figure 2). The Amphitheater of Joppa features a very similar structure to the Theater at Epidauros by Polykleitos the Younger in Greece built in the late classical period circa 350 BCE (Figure 4). The actor who befriends Perseus wears a gold tragedy theater mask and a cloak decorated with black-figure scenes common of the time. The theater is furnished with contrapposto statues of naked women, some statues with uniquely heavy contrapposto stances such as the Aphrodite of Melos by Alexandros of Antioch-on-the-Meander circa 150-125 BCE (Figure 5).
Because of their progressive creative poses, these statues appear to be from the classical to early Hellenistic period circa fourth century BCE. This makes these statues the latest and most out of period pieces in the movie [Stokstad]. The shield Perseus receives from the gods is gold with a bird emblazoned across the front like that found in the pedimental sculptures at the Temple of Aphaia (Figure 6). Thetis is the patron god of Joppa, and as such her temple there is as grandeur as the most impressive found in ancient Greece. The temple of Thetis is in the classical Greek style with a large marble Athena-esque statue of Thetis. Double-stacked Doric columns constitute the inner structural support, with a medieval style single register façade of a procession of men carved along base of statue.
The statue of Thetis holds a winged fairy in her hand, and features a large green curtain behind her. This structural support design is very similar to that of the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina, Greece which dates back to about 500 BCE (Figures 7, 8). The lair of Medusa appears to be from the prehistoric Minoan culture as it has columns that appear very ancient because their thickness and top-heavy form as well as featuring a geometric zigzag pattern. These crude columns are reminiscent of those found in the Stairwell in the residential quarter of the palace at Knossos (Figure 9). The outer structure of medusa’s lair was shot at the Temple of Hera II in Paestum, Italy (Figure 10), a dilapidated classical Greek temple with very large, crude, unaesthetic Doric columns which dates back to the late classical period.
The film features art, architecture and wear from a broad swath of culture periods from ancient Greece. However, the majority of pieces appear to be from around the mid to late classical period of ancient Greek art. Since this is the golden age of Greece and the time most highly associated with ancient Greece in popular culture and gives the film the classic romantic feeling of Greece which sets the perfect stage for such a classic tale.
“Perseus: The first of the heroes of Greek mythology.” That’s Greece. (2012): n. page. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://www.thatsgreece.com/info/greek_mythology-greek-heroes-Perseus>.