Thursday, March 8, 2007

Oedipus Rex

Edipo re; Drama, Italy/Morocco, 1967; D: Pier Paolo Pasolini, S: Franco Citti, Silvana Mangano, Alida Valli, Carmelo Bene, Julian Beck, Luciano Bartoli

Italy,1967. A soldier is getting jealous at his baby son, fearing his wife is showing more affections towards him. He sleeps with his wife and then goes on to his sons room, catching his legs...Ancient Greece. A shepard finds an abandoned baby in the wilderness and brings it to Corinth, where the king Polybus and queen Merope raise it like their own child and name it Oedipus. As a grown man, Oedipus heard from the Oracle at Delphi that he is going to kill his father and marry his mother. Fearing that may come true, Oedipus decides to leave and live as far away as possible from Polybus and Merope - not knowing they are actually his adoptive parents. In rage, he comes to a road and kills king Laius who was riding a chariot. He came to Thebes where he killed the demonic Sphinx and was crowned king of the city. And he married the queen, Jocasta. When a plague hit the town, his servants found out it's a curse because someone killed king Laius. Soon, Oedipus finds out he was actually Laius' son, and that Jocasta is his mother. She commits suicide and he becomes mad...Back in Italy in the '60s, Oedipus is still mad, playing a flute.

"Oedipus Rex" is not one the best films Pier Paolo Pasolini ever made, but it offers a lot of food for thought non the less. Like in most of his films, Pasolini uses a lot of unprofessional actors that give the story an authentic touch; they don't know how to act, they are just the way they are - clumsy, strange, insecure - and his point is that it would be a lie if they would play something that they are not. Even Franco Citti, the main actor, acts rather casualy, like a real person. The movie actually starts in the modern day Italy, where a man is jealous at his baby son because his wife is giving him all her attention. This prologue, where he sleeps with her in slow agony thinking at his son as a "competition", is truly provocative considering the film was made in 1967. But it also has a point since the story cuts right into the Ancient Greece where another, similar story happened, where Oedipus was abandoned by his father; in those two stories Pasolini once again proves his thesis about the non existence of history and repeating situations through every human period. The exotic Morocco is a weird substitute for Ancient Greece, but it manages to capture the esoteric mood and lyrical touch the author wanted. By adapting Sophocles play about Oedipus Pasolini created a daring minimalistic story about the agony of sexuality and perversion, innocence and ignorance, fate and damnation, adding a lot of Freudian touches throughout. The whole film is a little bit overstretched, and some situations, like the one where Oedipus kills king Laius just because he asked him to let his chariot pass, seem fake, but all in all "Oedipus Rex" remains an interesting film not many have heard of.


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