Watching the movie 300, is like going on a first date. You either come out of the theater, falling in love with it, or not at all.
I could always relate to battle scenes and war cries. I was told its because of my karma. I’ve been told by a fortune teller that I was an army general in my past life, though I did not kill anyone because I was the Queen’s bodyguard. However, I was kicked out of the palace, as I was too flirtatious with the dayang-dayang (palace maids). So, here I am, a mere mortal…
Anyway, a little re-cap. The story is a historical epic based on a true war, though the idea for the movie came about from comic book 300, written by Frank Miller. Shown in blue-screen, this movie is about Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartans – the little army, who fought against Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive force of more than one million soldiers. Though small in numbers, they fought to their last sweat and breath. Against all odds, the Spartans’ sacrifice inspires all of Greece to unite against the Persian invaders.
It’s not a historical fantasy, though the blue-screen and background narration will make you feel like it, as the story is based on the Battle of Thermopylae which took place in 480 BC. The film also shows the strength and leadership of the Spartan women, through the bold and beautiful Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey). She attempted to rally support for her husband, only to sacrifice her body to a politician, who cruelly defiled not only her loyalty but ripped apart her reputation, when she spoke so boldly but humbly, in front of a council of Greek men.
However, I would strongly suggest, to appreciate the movie as a work of art, one must make some profound sacrifices. One has to step back from one’s own faith, ideologies or political correctness, and enjoy the two hour movie for what it is – a movie, made in mighty Hollywood.
For a start, one has to put aside the controversies sited over the portrayal of the Persians, or Asians in this movie. One has to put aside the possibility that the film showed Persians as “bloodthirsty, underdeveloped zombies”. Put aside the thought that the characters might be flaming racist instincts in Europe and America. Put aside any indication of propaganda by Americans against Iraqis.
One has to put aside the gory details of warfare, acts of violence, killing and decapitation, sex and debauchery, plus the fact that the movie was funded by the US government, and seem to justify why the war on Iraq or even Iran was and is necessary.
Having done all that, in a strange way, I came out of the movie, feeling inspired. For it’s not always that you see a small group of soldiers, fighting with a force of one million enemies. But I witnessed a glimpse of it during the reformasi days and felt a sense of dejavu.
Desperate for an environment where the spirit of fighting and defending one’s right to freedom and justice is honourable and not frowned upon like how it is now, I came out of the cinema, feeling a sense of hope.
I was impressed by the Spartan’s war strategy: watching each other’s back in battle – with their time-tested heavy shields – for that is not only a sure way but perhaps the only way to victory. There is no way one can be selfish or coward if war must be won. Unity, alliance is the key to greater victory. Or else, how could the adage “disunited, we fall” come about?
I was startled by their battle cry of “never surrender, never retreat’, though to desire death as being glorious at the hands of the worst enemies in battle, seem not only sadistic but suicidal. But if these battles were to be taken metaphorically and not literally, then I too, long for “a death” that is not only beautiful but meaningful.
I was deeply touched by the sacrifices of the 300, leaving family and friends and comforts of their homeland to fight the deadly enemy, though receiving no support from the institutions and law that govern the very land they are defending. How familiar this is, for rebels are shunned, dismissed and condemned, only to be remembered later as heroes, though this will never and could never happen in this beloved country of ours.
I was left feeling crushed because when seeing his soldiers, King Leonidas said only this: that his only regret was that he had so few to sacrifice. How many of us could say this with such chilvary? How many would want to be sacrificed to save “earth and water”?
I know for a second, when I walked out of the theatre in Bangkok, I felt a moment of desolation. Because I could never find or have a leader like Leonidas – strong and determined, nor could I ever find a struggle as noble as this.
But this sense of hopelessness was renewed with a sense of hope when I recalled the King uttering these words: A new age has come, an age of freedom. And all will know that 300 Spartans gave their last breath to defend it, though at that point, the Acadians, fellow soldiers had decided to abandon the Spartans.
In a strange way, it reminded me about us bloggers and the mountain of challenges we are up against, not only from the authorities but by institutions who proclaim the merits of free speech, the newspapers, and also by fellow bloggers and writers, who are not in tune with our struggles, nor could they ever understand it. The enemy within is more dangerous than the enemy outside. This was proven in the movie when a devastated hunchback, wishing to serve in the army but rejected by the King, betrayed the Spartans by selling his soul to Xerxes.
Bloggers, we may not be more than 300, but we need to be awake, to realize that “Now, as then, a beast approaches, patient and comfortable, savoring the meal to come” (Dillios). I do not want to be the meal, nor would I want to ignore the approaching beast, because ignorance is not blissful, it leads to damnation and eternal sufferings. Today it is that blogger, tomorrow it is my brother or sister or me.
In this war of bloggers against the unknown universe, lets polish our shields, lets lay down war strategies, let build alliances and weed out the enemies. So that one day, not far away, I would be able to tell you, as Stelios did in the movie: “It is an honor to die by your side”.
At that juncture, I hope you will be able to tell me, as Leonidas did, when the last breathing Spartan perished on the bloody battlefield:
“It is an honor to have lived at yours”.