Achilles by Barry JC Purves


I wondered how to focus on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus without the others getting in the way. This intense physical relationship developed into the focus of the film, rather than any more Harryhausenesque aspects of the Greek myths. Intimacy had not really been treated seriously with puppets…

Barry JC Purves

Several people seemed to appreciate the link a week or so ago to The Torchbearer by Václav Svankmajer so here’s another animated short about helmeted warriors, albeit with a very different tone. Barry JC Purves is a British animator and theatre director who produced Achilles, an 11-minute puppet animation, in 1995, back when the UK’s Channel 4 was still regularly financing animated films. Derek Jacobi narrates an exploration in the style of Ancient Greek theatre of the relationship between Achilles and his alleged lover, Patroclus. (Whether or not the pair were lovers is still a subject of dispute.) It’s rare to find any overt sexuality in the world of puppet animation unless the directors are the Brothers Quay; it’s even more rare for that sexuality to have a homoerotic aspect which is what Purves depicts. A groundbreaking piece of work, then, which can be viewed in full here. The director’s website has more about the creation of the film, and a collection of stills from the production.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Torchbearer by Václav Svankmajer

3 thoughts on “Achilles by Barry JC Purves”

  1. Absolutely brilliant! Thanks John.

    The love of male warriors for each other is such a constant trope throughout ancient cultures it’s hard to not see it for what it is. You even have David and Jonathon in the Old Testament! I suppose it goes all the way back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The Epic says that Gilgamesh loved Enkidu “like a woman”.

    Lucky them they didn’t have two thousand years of Christianity teaching them to compartmentalize and deny their sexuality.

  2. Stephen: I agree, you have to give at least a percentage of these tales the benefit of the doubt when same-sex attraction is such a universal thing. It’s in the Greek myths, after all, with the stories of Zeus and Ganymede, Apollo and Hyacinthus, and so on.

    As for Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the Brother Quay covered part of that one in an idiosyncratic early work although you really need to hear their commentary to know how it relates to the story.

    Thom: Thanks. I did post a link to this a while back in one of the weekend posts but thought it needed more attention.

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