That’s right, still deep in the throes of my obsession with the movie “The Eagle.” Maybe I shouldn’t admit that publicly, but to hell with the naysayers. This movie got more than it’s fair share of scathing comments on the internet, and while I can see it’s not the greatest thing ever filmed, neither is it as bad as some make it out. I take comfort in knowing I am not the only one who has been similarly afflicted with a love for this movie. When searching out info on the history of the time period that the story is set in, I noticed some of those baby name sites where mothers-to-be were considering naming their children after Jamie Bell’s character, Esca. The origins of the name seem to be unknown, but there were some good guesses as to where it may have come from.
At it’s core, it’s a buddy movie, a road trip flick, ancient Roman style. Better, it’s a quest. They’re not after the Holy Grail, but something with as much meaning for Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum) – the restoration of his family’s good name.
The two main characters start off less than besties. Through the course of the film and the various threats and life-or-death situations they encounter, they develop a mutual respect and deep friendship. I read that the two actors became real life friends during the filming, and I think that shows in their performances.
I have to say I’m feeling slightly traitorous by deciding to learn Latin, rather than going for Irish at the moment. The movie is set mostly in Scotland, not Ireland, but the Scots were Celts so there’s my connection. I’ll get around to learning the Irish as well, but I am consumed by learning, really learning, about ancient Rome at the moment, and their interactions with the indigenous Britons. Rome never made it to Ireland, Ireland’s troubles would come later.
One thing that I’ve realized I love about this movie is that this is a story that’s seldom told. We’ve had plenty of versions of Robin Hood, King Arthur, the Crusades, lots of medieval fare. Pre-Christian Ireland and Scotland are rarely dramatized. Even Game of Thrones which is huge now is still a ‘medieval’ setting, albeit in a fantasy world. It’s also not Showtime’s “Spartacus,” this film never gets to Rome itself. (There was a short-lived series in 1997 called “Roar” which purported to show the Irish tribes battling the Romans, but it died a deserved death, despite Heath Ledger as the main character.) There’s a deleted scene on the DVD showing Marcus racing a chariot against the local village chariot-maker. Although it was a fun scene I can see why they cut it, but that’s the stuff that’s so fascinating to me: The details of day-to-day life for those ancient Celts (not sure what tribe they were supposed to be right around the Roman garrison there). Not all interactions between Celts and Romans were antagonistic. This book series could well be mined for a television series. Helloooo Hollywood, someone get on that, ok? Kthxbai. Addendum: The soundtrack is on permanent repeat in my brain now, I think. One of the deleted scenes (the chariot race) has a fantastic Celtic fiddle track that also plays over the closing credits. Happily it is included on the soundtrack CD, even though that scene was cut.
People tend to think of the Celts as a homogeneous group of wild savages who roamed around the British Isles. They were many tribes of peoples, all classified as Celt (the word Celt or Keltoi is first used by Hecataeus of Miletus in 517 B.C.) My own family descends from the Dál gCais or Dalcassians. Here’s an extensive list of the tribes and a map showing what area each one inhabited.
I am so completely captivated by this movie and time period now I find it hard to watch anything else. Part of me yearns to be a legionary and pick up a sword (past life calling?). I feel a little like Christopher Reeve in “Somewhere in Time”, as if I’m trying to wish my way back in time to be with these people. Where’s a TARDIS when you need one? To compensate, I’m dreaming up my own story set in that time. I feel like if I keep digging into this long enough, I’ll remember something, or find something I lost. I have no idea what. I’m haunted. I believe, I believe, I believe…
And I’ll tell you what, I would not want to get on Esca’s bad side.