(2/7/06 4:30 am)
Electra My Love - Miklos Jancso
This is an incredible film, if you have the taste for a highly personalised contemporary interpretation of myth. Known for paying scant respect to the story, Jancso assumes that the Electra myth is familiar to his audience. Instead of fleshing out his characters - Electra, Orestes and Aegisthus - he composes a ritualistic theatre that communicates through the movements. Against the wide, vast canvas of the Hungarian plain, these weirdly attired (in peasant clothes) figures enact a pageant that is as precise in its choreography, as is the camera movement that captures it. The pageant reinforces one of Jancso's pet themes: oppression. By giving the Electra myth a contemporary home in Hungary, Jancso draws attention to the fact that the history of tyranny and oppression repeats itself endlessly, and the body politic needs to rise from the dead like a phoenix. More than the message, it is the layered vehicle for the message that is riveting. The pageant is performed for the actors (who double up as actors in the pageant and the audience for it), for the camera (that records as it re-choreographs), and for the audience (who read and attribute meaning to this non-linear stylized spectacle). The story and the allegory, if they can be identified as such, are unpacked through these interactions. There are the characteristic long takes that is Jancso's signature. In contrast to Pasolini's "Oedipus Rex" which is also a contemporary interpretation of Greek myth, Jancso does not establish or provide any narrative logic to the transposition of the Electra story in modern Hungary. While Pasolini begins his film with a modern couple in a modern setting, Jancso begins with ritual. "Electra My Love" traverses the grey zone between myth and reality, past and present, deliberately blurring their boundaries. Electra recites paeans to justice and holds forth on the dangers of tyranny, as easily as she is made to sing Hungarian folk songs. Orestes lies dead and is resurrected. Agamemnon's death is ritually re-enacted at Aegisthus' behest and a man sacrificed, while Electra and Orestes have revolvers in their hand and board a phoenix-like red helicopter at the end. These are not inconsistencies or anachronisms (what imdb might call "goofs"); they are simply part of the stylization and emphasise Jancso's exploration of ambiguity as opposed to the story. Ambiguity is also evident in the way the oppressors become the oppressed. "Electra My Love" isn't a film for everyone, but can be hugely rewarding if you are able to get inside Jancso's language and vision.
Perhaps i ought to have posted this in the Eastern european film thread
I also watched Marker's "La Jetee" again after many years. One of those films that will easily make my top 50 list. Will be watching his tribute to Tarkovsky, "One Day In the Life of Andrei Arsenevich" in a festival screening in a couple of weeks Will write about "La Jetee" as also Imamura's "Warm Water Under a Red Bridge", Pasolini's "Porcile" and many many Fassbinders. How do you manage to have your reviews keep pace with your film watching trev? I am way behind