A semi-literate who was deprived of schooling during the Cultural Revolution, Li Huiquan, is released from labor camp. But his attempts to make good are continually thwarted. His street ... See full summary »
Those viewers who are familiar with director Miklos Jansco's better-known films ("The Round-Up," "The Red and the White," "Winter Wind") may find this adaptation of Euripides' Electra takes a bit of getting used to at first. Jansco's earlier films were noted for very long takes and fluid staging in a realistic mise en scene. Here the long takes and fluid staging are used, but the production is more "theatrical," i.e., the costuming is simple, and instead of a bare stage there is a vast steppe in Eastern Europe, with only a few spare structures as sets. It is as if a stage production using contemporary techniques were opened up and presented on an estate, complete with throngs of extras (many of them sans clothing), horsemen riding about, and a roving minstrel. However odd the initial effect may be in terms of conventional expectations, it makes for a mostly intriguing treatment of a classic text.
In fact, this production probably conveys more of a sense of the impact of the ancient Greek plays than stripped-down stage presentations: the Greeks used music, dance and mass movement of the chorus in their staging, after all.
Jansco adds to this with the camera's ability to move in and out of the action, so that within a single long take there are sequences of grandeur and swirling action and then moments of intimate exchanges. The whole experience is one of a theatrical presentation aiming for universality in its approach being complemented and enriched by the versatility of cinematic techniques.
The cinematography is a marvel of technique; the color is pleasantly muted
That being said, the screenwriter appends some contemporary political musings that may strike viewers as either appropriately idyllic (and idealistic) or jarringly naive.
For those who are familiar with the play and/or the director's other work, this film ought to be a pleasure to behold, whatever one may make of the artistic kneadings the material has been subjected to.
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