Intertextuality in Ulee’s gold and Odyssey
According to the plot of film, it is not difficult to find connections between Ulee’s goldand Odyssey from background, characters and plot. I would like to picked out these basic “classical elements” clearly before we get deeper into reception study of the text.
Firstly, war is the common background for both text. While Odyssey focuses on Odysseus’ return journey after ten years Troy war, Ulee’s gold presents Ulee’s life after he returned from twenty years Vietnam war.
Just like Odysseus, veteran Ulee also acquired great glories in the war but lost all his friends on the battlefield. In Odyssey as well as Iliad, Homer always emphasised Odysseus’ “with many devices”(Od.1.1) as his most distinguished ability of a epic hero, while in the film Ulee, in a depressed mode, attributed his surviving to“cunning and lucky” when he explain their different fates to his granddaughter Penny.
When comes to other characters, director’s self-conscious allusion becomes more obvious. Most characters names are borrowed from Homeric epics. Hellen, despite her relation to Ulee has changed to father and daughter-in-law, is still the woman who has left families and led to conflicts directly. Penelope as Ulee’s wife died six years ago in the film, buthis granddaughter, whose name is Penny, seems to replace Penelope to be Ulee’s new support with respect to spirit. As for Caesy, whose name is said to be la nickname of Cassandra, who is Priamus’ daughter and refused Hellen’s arrival at Troy.
Except for family members constituted almost of Greek mythology, Jimmy’s “friends” Eddie and F played important roles in the films who are invaders of the house for property, just like suitors in Odyssey also keep the women as captives.
There are some other unnoticeable details implies intertextuality to classical myth. Such as the toy horse which is always in hand of Penny, maybe referring to Troy horse. The bedtime story Ulee read to Penny on the night when Hellen returned home is about a tough voyage on the sea, just like Odysseus journey full of storms and obstacles.
All the details above prove that this film to be a self-conscious adaption from classical literature. However, similarities and quotations of original texts are not enough for a marvellous film to be favoured, a successful reception should be at least another interpretation of classical literature text. Furthermore it can provide a solution or perspective when it is inevitable to confront certain eternal problems for human beings. Otherwise, a film with antique elements and allusions just for flaunting will turn out to be a meaningless repetition in modern times.
According to limited interviews, the film’s director as well as script writer did not show much reading experience of epics in public. After graduating from Antioch College majored in film-production Victor Nuñez showed great interest in family relationships which is always a principal theme in films like Gal Young Un (1979) and Ruby in Paradise (1993).
For composers like Victor Nuñez, films with allusion to classical literature is not aimitation, but still his own creation. On one side, the traditional myth people always familiar with acts as a unnecessary but vital background, reminding us of the problems which influence us in similar ways even after thousand years, such conflicts and wars always exist and can bring miserable consequence to life. On the other side, when we attempt to receive classical works, we understand it with modern judgements influenced by social culture and values and personal experience, some different perspectives of classical figures and contemporary problems may be exposed in our reception of classical world.
Since meaning of the word “Odyssey” has already got changed, always referring to a metaphor of long and difficult journey. However, we should not ignore that there are two basic elements leading to the tough wandering: before they set out, long time war is what the soldiers suffered as a vital background may influence their future actions, while home is what these exhausted veterans eager to after their wandering. From the perspective of the film, it is not difficult to discover that influence of war and how to get along with families are main points in Ulee’s gold. I believe this can provide as an explanation why Victor Nuñez choose Odyssey as classical (unpublic) background of his film and I shall discuss how he interpret this modern Odyssey story from aspects of war and home.