Country: Italy, France, West Germany
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Director/Writer: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cinematography: Ennio Guarnieri
Pasolini’s MEDEA, boosting the household name Maria Callas’ one-off celluloid bash, mesmerically sinks its teeth into the fecund soil of ancient Greek myth, story-wise, it welds together Jason and the Argonauts’ quest of golden fleece with the play of Euripides, and takes liberty with Pasolini’s trenchant interpretation about possession, betrayal and revenge.
Exhibiting the sui-generis topography of Göreme in Turkey’s Cappadocia Region, an immemorial mountainous area grandly preserved with its ancient architecture (caves, churches etc.) and scraggy outlook, the place itself is a marvel to behold, nevertheless, Pasolini makes great play of his unfettered imagination to limn the mythical tribe of Medea (Callas), a pageantry of madcap costumes and primitive implements, topping off by a head-rolling, blood-drinking human-sacrifice ritual in supplication of harvest, savagery and sanctity, like conjoined twins, forever mediating mankind’s self-seeking turpitude.
Catching sight of Jason (Gentile) for the first time, as if struck by coup-de-foudre, Medea, asks her brother Absyrtus (Tramonti) to steal the golden fleece, together they join Jason and the co., en route to Greece, Absyrtus is sacrificed in the hands of Medea (not unlike the boy killed earlier) in order to defer the pursing forces, executed with Pasolini’s clinical philosophy, it has a discerning tang of disinterest countervailing the cockamamie action, and that is distinctive from Pasolini’s treatment.
The second half takes place in Jason’s homeland, where Medea has borne two boys for him, but Jason is bent on marrying the Corinthian princess Glauce (Clémenti), which causes Medea and her sons in danger of exile. So, perdition is brewed in Medea’s witchery, and Pasolini capriciously presents us two different approaches with the same denouement, but the crunch is the scandalous filicide served as the ultimate malice from a jilted lover, which would be plundered with bone-chilling assiduity in Joachim Lafosse’s OUR CHILDREN (2012).
Albeit its esoteric backstory and accompanied by a religious assortment of folkloric tuneage, MEDEA belongs to the more digestible bracket among Pasolini’s corpus, and Callas is more than persuasive in imparting Medea’s desperation and resolution, a concrete cause célèbre engraved with Pasolini’s immense ambition and poetic pedagogy, MEDEA deserves a better reputation.