Master and Commander, the Movie

The movie, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany is a cinematic adaptation of two books, the first and the tenth, of a saga of twenty volumes by author Patrick O’Brian (Tom McGregor, 2003). I haven’t read the novels and, at first, found the movie to be excellent cinematography but not particularly interesting otherwise. However, as I let the image wash over my psyche, the story turned out to be more meaningful than was first apparent.

The realistic background for the movie is the rise of Napoleon and the British-French wars in the late 18th and early 19th century. While the French had the sea-hero in Napoleon Bonaparte, on the British side was sea-hero, Lord (Horatio) Nelson. The date indicated at the beginning of the movie was 1805, the year of Nelson’s death at Trafalgar and the turning punt in the war against the French in favor of the British. From the symbolic point of view, which i s the deeper truth depicted by the movie, it involves the classic heroic journey to the underworld, the Nekya, for purposes of rebirth. Relative to the more pragmatic British, the French represent deep Eros and feeling values. The heroic journey for an Englishman, therefore, likely involves integrating these qualities into consciousness and life.