Helen of Troy (miniseries)

Helen of Troy
Written by Ronni Kern
Directed by John Kent Harrison
Starring Sienna Guillory
Matthew Marsden
John Rhys-Davies
Emilia Fox
With Rufus Sewell
and Stellan Skarsgård
Theme music composer Joel Goldsmith
Country of origin United States United States, Malta, Greece
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Ted Kurdyla
Cinematography Edward J. Pai
Editor(s) Michael D. Ornstein
Running time 177 minutes
Production company(s) Fuel Entertainment
Distributor Universal Home Entertainment
Original network USA Network
Original release United States April 20, 2003

Helen of Troy is a 2003 television miniseries based upon Homer's story of the Trojan War, as recounted in the epic poem, Iliad. This TV miniseries also shares the name with a 1956 movie starring Stanley Baker. It stars Sienna Guillory as Helen, Matthew Marsden as Paris, Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, James Callis as Menelaus, John Rhys-Davies as Priam, Maryam d'Abo as Hecuba, as well as Stellan Skarsgård as Theseus. The series was entirely shot on location in the islands of Malta.

The film is placed in the early classical period rather than the correct late Bronze Age: the Greeks are shown with Iron Age classical hoplite dress and arms. Made on a relatively low budget, Helen of Troy was released at a time when interest in the subject was high due to the soon-to-be-released Troy.

The film also focuses more on the life of Helen herself rather than simply the Trojan War. The entire first half deals with Helen's life before Troy and includes a number of mythological facts that other versions either gloss over or omit, such as Helen's abduction by Theseus and the actual agreement of the Greek kings to use her marriage as their peace agreement.

In contrast to Troy (which was roughly based on the Iliad which itself only depicts some of the events of the final year of the war), the film tells much of the story of the War. Most notably, Helen of Troy features and discusses the intervention of the deities (the film's opening scene shows Hera, Athena and Aphrodite at the Judgment of Paris) as written by Homer. This does not mean, however, that it is more accurate, as a number of the characters (namely Paris, as stated above), do not resemble their Homeric counterparts. Both films feature the interpretation of Agamemnon as a domination-hungry tyrant, although this Helen of Troy adds a new dimension by addressing Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia to the deities.

Plot summary

it begins with the birth of Paris, as well as Cassandra's prophecy that he would be the cause of Troy's destruction. Worried, his father, king Priam leaves him on Mount Ida, where he is found and raised by the shepherd. When he is an adult, Judgement of Paris judges Aphrodite as the fairest of the three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. After awarding her the golden apple she promises him the love of, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Meanwhile in Sparta, Helen sees Paris's judgement in a pool of water and happily accepts his choice of her love. She later meets the Mycenaean King, Agamemnon, who has come to claim her sister, Clytemnestra, as his bride, but is also immediately taken by Helen's attractiveness. During the wedding, Helen is kidnapped by two Athenians, and their friend. They take her to Athens, where Helen falls for Theseus, before her brother Pollux raids Athens and kills him. As he is dying, Theseus stabs Pollux. In Sparta, Helen's father Tyndareus rages at his daughter, blaming her for losing his heir. He presents her to the many suitors who seek her hand, bidding them to do as they wish.

The suitors draw lots after swearing an oath suggested by clever Odysseus that if anyone disrespect her husband's claims to her, they should unite and wage war against him. Odysseus rules himself and Agamemnon out of the lot, since they are both married. They agree to the oath and Agamemnon's brother Menelaus wins. Agamemnon is visibly jealous.

Meanwhile, Paris' favorite bull is taken for the Trojan tribute games. Paris insists on competing, despite his father's protests. After winning in every competition and being recognized by his sister Cassandra, Paris is welcomed by an overjoyed to Troy. Cassandra, a seer, as well as his elder brother Hector are upset at their father's decision.

Paris is sent to Sparta to draw out a peace treaty with Sparta, Menelaus alone, which angers Agamemnon. His treaty is refused and both Menelaus and Agamemnon plot to have him murdered. While there, however, he encounters and recognizes Helen and later prevents her from committing suicide. He then gains her love and she helps him flee. Together they sail to Troy.

When Menelaus finds this out, he demands that his brother launch war on Troy and the former suitors are gathered to fulfill their oath. But the winds are not in their favor and after a month, reveals that wants Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter in return for favorable winds. He carries out the deed, despite a heavy heart.

Helen and Paris arrive at Troy with the Greek army at their heels. Priam is at first reluctant to allow Helen to remain at Troy, until he sees her. When the Greeks send an embassy of Menelaus and Odysseus to demand Helen's return, Priam refuses, thus the Greeks plan an attack.

In the morning, the battle is joined on the beach of Troy, with Hector nearly killed by Agamemnon. The battle ends with the Trojan army's crushing defeat and the Greeks camping on the beach.

Ten years pass. Agamemnon agrees to end the war with a single combat, between Menelaus and Paris. If Menelaus wins, Helen will be returned. If Menelaus loses, the Trojans may keep her. Whatever the outcome, the Greeks have to leave Troy.

Agamemnon cheats, poisoning Menelaus' javelin without telling him. During the duel Paris is cut and the poison disorients him. Menelaus, however, does not take advantage of him; instead, they stop fighting and make peace between each other as a fog hides them from view.

As the fog lifts, Agamemnon's cheating is exposed. Hector challenges Agamemnon to a duel that will end the war - this time, to the death. Achilles takes up the challenge, fighting for Agamemnon, but agrees to fight not for Helen but for his own honor. Achilles easily succeeds in killing Hector.

That night Helen, fearing for Paris's safety, goes to the seer Cassandra and asks to know what she can do to protect Paris. Cassandra replies that her only choice is to give herself to the Greeks. Helen agrees, presenting herself in Agamemnon's tent and offering a trade - her for the body of Hector. Agamemnon refuses, as he does not want his daughter's death to be in vain, as well as chases her around the camp, but Paris arrives in time to save her, challenging Agamemnon for the safety of Troy. Achilles charges at him, but Paris seizes a bow and shoots Achilles in the heel, killing him. Afterwards the Greeks attack him, but he is saved by Trojan soldiers and is reunited with Helen. Shortly thereafter, Agamemnon finds him and stabs Paris. He dies in Helen's arms.

During Paris' funeral, the Greeks are reported to have sailed away - leaving a Trojan Horse massive wooden horse on the shore. It is taken into the city and Troy celebrates late into the night. Unbeknownst to them though, there are some Greek soldiers inside the wooden horse. When they are all asleep, the Greeks come out and sack the city, slaying Priam and Hecuba. The great Agamemnon seats himself proudly on Troy's throne as the new emperor of the Aegean and ruler of the World. Agamemnon has his men bring Helen to his throne and orders her to kneel at his feet. Agamemnon strokes Helen's hair, restrains her and then begins to rape her. Menelaus tries to stop him, but is held back by Agamemnon's guards. He orders Agamemnon to leave his wife alone, but his brother pays no mind to his commands and continues to rape Helen. Odysseus is also shocked at Agamemnon's act but can do nothing.

The next morning, as the Greek soldiers ravage the ruins of Troy of its riches and take its people as slaves, Clytemnestra arrives in the royal palace of Troy, where she ventures into the royal pool. There, she finds Agamemnon and Helen, both naked. Agamemnon relaxes in triumph, while Helen sits near the pool, not saying a word. Clytemnestra covers her sister with a robe and sends her away, leaving her alone with Agamemnon. She tells him she comes for their daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon replies that she is not here. Clytemnestra replies "I know" then attacks, throwing her net-like shawl over her husband and stabs him to death in the pool.

Helen wanders woefully through the ruined city, collapsing at the spot where Paris was slain. There, she sees an apparition of Paris and they embrace. Helen begs Paris to take her with him to the afterlife and he tells her that he has prepared a place for her, but she must wait until it is her time. He disappears and Menelaus arrives, sword in hand. Helen prepares for her punishment, but Menelaus can do nothing but feel sorry for her. Helen tells him she cannot love him, but she "will follow". The two head back to the Greek ships, ready to live the rest of their lives as king and queen of Sparta.


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