a film by Oliver Stone
2004 | 175 mins | US
›› Alexander
Alexander by name, Hollywood by nature.
Alexander by Oliver Stone In spite of initial hopes from the gay community, this proved to be as far removed from a visual testament to the defining sexuality of Alexander the Great, as you could get. Then again, did you really expect it to be? Given what we have here, is an Oliver Stone epic that brilliantly captures the violent life and times of the famous Macedonian king who in his relatively short life of just under thirty-three years, expanded Macedonian rule to lands that no-one had ever encountered.

Son of Philip II and an apt pupil of Aristotle, he ascended the throne after the murder of his father in 336 BC and by 334 BC had not only united the warring Greek states, but had invaded the Persian Empire, duly defeating its king, Darius III, at Issus. Within four years Alexander had conquered Asia Minor, Syria, Babylonia, Persia and Egypt, where he founded Alexandria, home to literature, science and culture. Yet by the time he invaded northern India all was not well, as his virtually invincible Greek and Macedonian armies were growing tired of continual battles, with many in the ranks longing to return home.

Alexander by Oliver Stone Thus it would come to play that the one who rose to such greatness, would suffer the indignity of the ultimate fall from grace, defeated not so much by the rulers of India, but by an army intent on mutiny, rather than conquest. Returning to Babylon, albeit reluctantly, Alexander would come to die of a fever OR of foul play in 323 BC.

So with all this history going for it, as enacted by a cast of such major players as Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer, Christopher Plummer, let alone the cinematic chemistry of Angelina Jolie as Olympias and Colin Farrell in the title role, as complete with an inspirational score by Vangelis, all under the directorial expertise of Oliver Stone, the question beckons - what went wrong?

For Alexander proved to be a historical bomb at the box-office, although as to the reason why, such is not easy to say. Certainly this was a most ambitious project to undertake, not only in terms of factual detail, but equally in terms of affairs of the heart and inparticular the issue of Alexander's sexuality. For whilst in the face of Greek protestations Alexander took an Asian bride to his bed, the true love of his life would forever remain his childhood friend Hephaistion. And therein lies for many its downfall, given any signs of sexual intimacy between the two ended up on the cutting room floor. Unlike scenes between Alexander and his barbarian wife Roxane and the pivotal bedroom sequence that has Rosario Dawson displaying the raw sexuality blatantly missing from the chaste scenes between Colin Farrell and Jared Leto as Hephaistion.

Yet is Oliver Stone to blame for this? For was the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion pure or passionate? Certainly if such was of a strictly plutonic nature, then the physical bond between Alexander and the Persian eunuch Bagoas is far more documented. Only, not here. For this is a work that whilst proud to depict the heterosexual side of Alexander, fails to show with the same intensity the homosexual side of his nature.

For and in spite of some breathtaking cinematography, let alone a series of superbly staged battle sequences, this remains a fragmented work, one that whilst far from being the first attempt by Hollywood to detail the life of the Grecian legend, may well given its relative poor performance, be the last. All of which is a shame, for in depicting the life and brutal times of a man who went on to conquer 90% of the known world, Alexander for the main part, simply failed to convey the very sexuality and sheer passion of the one who was so great.
available on DVD as The Original Theatrical Version, The Director's Cut and The Final Cut.
starring: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Plummer,
Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Francisco Bosch, Brian Blessed,
Connor Paolo, Patrick Carroll and Robert Earley.
Copyright 2005 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #105
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