Thursday, September 26, 2013

Electra (1962)

Electra was released on December 1, 1962 in the USA.  Based on the play by Euripides, Electra is the first installment in Mihalis Kakogiannis' Greek Tragedy Trilogy, followed by The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977).  It was nominated for the 1963 best foreign language film Oscar and also for the Palme d'Or at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.  At Cannes, Kakogiannis won the award for best cinematic transposition and also a special technical achievement prize.

The film opens with Agamemon returning triumphantly from Troy.  In a beautiful, dialogue-free sequence, Agamemnon greets his children and then is murdered by his queen, Clytemnestra, and her lover.  Prince Orestes manages to escape but Princess Electra is kept locked away until she is of marrying age and then Clytemnestra marries her off to a poor, old farmer.  The people are saddened and outraged.  Their princess should have been married to royalty.

Electra is fortunate to find that her new husband is a loyal and caring man.  He demands nothing from her and she repays him by working with the other women on the farm.  The women take Electra to her father's grave and there, she prays to him and asks the gods to bring her brother, Orestes, home to avenge her father.

Electra's prayers are soon answered.  Orestes returns.  The siblings have been separated so long that they do not recognize one another.  The truth is finally brought out by an old man who once tutored both Agamemnon and Orestes.  Even blind, the man recognizes Orestes.  The siblings rejoice and begin a plot for vengeance.

Orestes kills his mother's lover while he is drunk at a festival in honour of Bacchus.  They lure Clytemnestra from her palace by sending word that Electra has given birth to her own child and kill her as well.  Clytemnestra is given the opportunity to explain herself and she says the root of all this evil is that Agamemnon had her first daughter, Iphigenia, sacrificed before heading to Troy.  Though Electra can sympathize she still wants vengeance for what Clytemnestra has done to her and Orestes.

The film ends with what is really the beginning of the great Orestian tragedy.  Now Orestes must be haunted by the gods and himself for committing matricide.

The film is beautifully photographed by Walter Lassally.  90% of it is shot outdoors in the stark, rocky Greek countryside.  This really gives the film a haunted feeling.  The score by Mikis Theodorakis is very unusual and memorable.

The cast, led by Irene Papas as Electra, is really strong.  Much of the film is without dialogue and the actors do a great job with telling the story visually.  I really love the way Kakogiannis uses the traditional Chorus of Greek drama.  The entire film is a beautiful representation of the great tragedy.

Electra was released on DVD in 2003 and can still be found at fairly reasonable prices on eBay and Amazon.  The DVD contains only the film and a trailer.  I really wish there were some additional features.


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  2. oh this is amazing to see Electra 1962. look at her eyes, so scary and dangerous. i will try to download this electra part. thanks for sharing this oldie movie.

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