Level Two: This is a propaganda film, and it makes no bones about it, with its frequent declarations along the lines of "Freedom isn't free" and its repeated assertion that it is glorious to die in battle. The Persians (we know them nowadays as Iranians, and the costuming emphasizes this origin) are heavily loaded with additional meanings, touching on, as far as I can tell, every white middle-class American fear they could find. Xerxes is loaded with bling, make-up, and a heavy touch of homo-eroticism. In one scene, standing behind
At the point where someone's child is killed with him in battle and he says he does not regret the death but the fact that he never told the kid he loved him best, I wanted to barf.
In reply, Wilfrid Owen said it better than I ever can:
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.