Thursday, February 12, 2009


232 days ago

There's the one by Pasolini with Maria Callas and....surprise surprise! Lars von Trier made one based on the Carl T. Dreyer's script, which holds beautiful expressionist images. I watched them both over the week-end - the storyline is slightly different, Pasolini goes through the whole legend of the Golden Fleece and the Argonauts who go all the way to Colchis (situated in nowadays Georgia or Gruzia) to still it. Lars von Trier/Dreyer tell only the end of the story, like the classical play by Euripides.

The focus in Pasolini's version falls onto the difference between two worlds: myth and reason, Medea and Jason, the world of magic and the real world. Maria Callas is beautiful and sensitive, instead of being a sorceress, her Medea is a stranger who's not understood and/or accepted in the culture where she landed. Between her and Jason there's mutual attraction, but he's a man of this world who wants to be accepted and recognized, so he choses to marry somebody more appropriate to his ambition. Medea is not a criminal, only a woman who choses to revive her old rites, re-affirm her vision of the world when she feels trapped and betrayed. The only actor attracting my attention is Laurent Terzieff as the Centaur who plays adoptive father to Jason. The settings and the costumes are overwhelming, recreating a long gone forgotten world in the cine verite style that characterizes the other films of Pasolini. He filmed vast empty lands, troglodyte and mud cities in North Africa with amateurs and I guess a little in Italy (the Corinthian part) it looks ancient but not fantasylike, the impact is amazing, you feel that story is real.

Lars von Trier plays with light and shadow, also with little dialogue, in a Middle Age looking Scandinavia, filled with trembling lights and somber settings. Characters communicate many times through screens: curtains or branches, like they can't really see each other the way they are. His Medea is a feminist who does not accept her destiny of being seduced then abandoned by a man. I understood her murder of the children like a liberation from all bounds with that foreign country. At the end, as she sails away, she symbolically takes off her cap and frees her long hair. The marshlands, the water and forests are the perfect wild setting for wild passions, but people speak in subdued tone, which, together with the empty spaces and fog/dim lights creates the sensation of oppression. The best Lars von Trier film I've seen so far, no doubt due also to the expressionist syle he has chosen, as a tribute to Carl Dreyer.

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