Michael Cocoyannis has created a powerful interpretation of Euripides' tragedy, "Electra", which is available at Amazon.com (USA). The stark black-and-white cinematography mirrors the stormy emotions of the protagonists, Electra and her brother, Orestes. The movie was filmed on site at Mycenae; indeed, the cyclopian blocks of the Gate of the Lions, the so-called "treasury of Atreus," the "tomb of Clytemnestra," and the rock-strewn Peloponnesian countryside provide a striking backdrop for the superbly-directed drama.
There is so much about this production to praise. Foremost is Irene Papas in the title role. Even when she is silent, Papas, her hair shorn in mourning, exudes a bitter passion for her slain father, Agamemnon, which is as intense as her hatred of her mother, Clytemnestra; on a psychological level, Papas' portrayal personifies the so-called 'Electra complex.' And yet, she underplays the role; one feels that her emotions are smoldering beneath the surface. Giannis Fertis, the young man who portrays Orestes, has a profile that resembles a hero on a Greek Red-figured vase. Although not quite the equal of Papas, he is nevertheless convincing. A hair-raising moment for the audience comes after the two, who adore each other, recognize the enormity of their crime and its consequences.
The evocative musical score of Mikis Theodorakis enhances the drama, as does the chorus of women, who, like Papas, are eloquent in their silence, as they watch the tragedy unfold. With their black veils billowing in the wind, they stand on the hillside like ominous sentinels--suggesting the inevitability of the tragedy and foreshadowing the black-winged Furies who will eventually hound Orestes.
View this splendid film with the Greek sound and the English subtitles. It may not be everyone's cup of tea (My son would probably do an Orestes, if I tried to play it on his immense HD screen--reserved for action films in colour only!). For discerning viewers who enjoy fine cinema and superb acting, however, "Electra" will not disappoint.
P.S. Why don't directors do more Greek tragedy? Wouldn't you love to see Diana Rigg portray Medea!
"Elektra" with Irene Papas is available on Amazon.com, USA.
I came to view this film the long way around. I have watched the Richard Straus Opera "Elektra" in which there are people of the same name but different spelling than the film. In the play Elektra the eldest daughter is upset because her mother Klytämnestra and her mother's lover Aegisth killed her father the king, Agamemnon. She calls on her father's spirit, and vows vengeance. Her younger sister Chrysothemis tries to talk her out of it. Her mother comes to here drugged and sleepless asking Elektra what can be done to make amends so her nightmares will end. Elektra tells her that the blood of an impure woman must be shed. Later Elektra is told that her brother, Orest is dead so she tells her sister that she must help kill the mother and lover. Orest turns up alive and is coaxed into killing first Klytämnestra and then Aegisth. So much emotional hate and joy is released that Elektra dances until she falls dead. Then there are several translations of the play by Sophocles 410 BC. Now we come to the interpretation for this 1962 film play directed by Michael Cacoyannis of "Zorba the Greek" fame. The film takes 113 minutes; Approximately 15 minutes of dialog, 30 minutes of mime to cut out the bulk of the dialog from the play, and the rest filler of people milling around. I do not mean to sound trite but be prepared for long moments where we have to listen to an off key string instrument or a bunch of horns that keep us focused of where the action should be. There is a moving song and a chorus that speaks out now and them. The set is the Greek landscape with a few structures. It is shot in black and white. This is saved by exceptional acting. There is a touching scene where Agamemmnon retunes to great his wife and children. Then we watch as Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus net in Agamemmnon for the kill. Orestes gets led out to a foreign land and Electra is under house arrest until she grows up. She cuts off her hair in protest and is married off to an innocuous peasant. Will she ever get revenge? And is Orestes even alive? What ho, strangers approach. This is a tale of "...A family so noble and so damned at the same time." To get a different take on the story you can read "Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life" by Thomas Moore, where he tells the story a little different in depicting the role of becoming a mother. The media itself is a DVD with options of Greek: Mono, English: Mono or French: mono. Then the option also of English, French and Spanish Language Subtitles. The singing is done in Greek only but you can use English subtitles to tell what they are singing. There are no pamphlets with this package.