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Daniel Giménez Cacho,
The plague struck Thebes in the tragedy by Sophocles here is unparalleled violence; as; merciless in the Colombia today. Edipo; a young promoter of peace; is appointed mayor of a town sunk in misery and violence. Their first mission is to discover and punish the murderers of Layo; a known potentate of the region. His research is, then, to all armed factions that exist in Colombia; guerrilla groups; paramilitary bands; armed drug organizations, common criminals, repressive state forces, that in the classical Greek tragedy; the foreboding dream of Layo fulfilled; resulting Oedipus the killer of his own father; Layo; his mother's lover and father of her brother. Written by
Some of you, (the ones that took high school English) will undoubtedly remember Oedipus Rex, Sophocles' infamous tragedy. Those of you who are avid readers, or have taken college level English undoubtedly know Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of masterworks of magical realism like "100 Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera." "Edipo Alcalde" is a marriage of the 2 where the latter updates the former's work into war torn Columbia.
The match is a smart one. Sophocles tragedy is intentionally provocative in ways that suit Garcia Marquez, who has a propensity towards kinky and illicit sex that pushes boundaries in his work. (The protagonist of "Love in the Time of Cholera" has had 622 affairs while preserving his emotional virginity for 50 years and the narrator of "Memoirs of his Melancholy Whores" wishes only for a night of sex with a 14 year old virgin as a gift to himself for his 94th birthday). Also, inherent in his magical realism is a sense of acceptance of fate, fortune tellers and mystics, all of which play major roles in both "100 Years of Solitude" and "Oedipus Rex."
Garcia Marquez takes Sophocles basic storyline and strays from it only in his exclusions. Most of the set up is left out of the movie. Laius is never even a character in the film. He is only a presence felt and spoken about throughout. Thankfully, the rape of a young boy is excluded and replaced by a prophetic dream as the reasoning behind Laius' curse.
Some subtext is lost with the decision to cut the subplot of Oedipus' defeat of the monster. The name Oedipus refers to 'known feet' and he solves the riddle because of his intimate knowledge of walking with a cane (which was caused by his father chaining him to the mountain). This reinforces the element of fate in the story. Without it, things seem more up to sad coincidence.
As a fan of Garcia Marquez's work, there are interesting carry-overs of his literary themes. Cruelty to animals is a harbinger of doom. Love and sex are at odds. There are characters who remain chaste is some sense for decades before consummating a flawed relationship. And, he even out does himself. Incest between mother and child is surely a more outlandish sexual topic than even sexual relationships with 14 year old girls (a topic covered, at length in at least 2 of his books).
The film is often thrilling with a palpable sense of danger and violence. The locations all look beautiful. The jungles are lush and real feeling. The whole affair feels top notch and very expensive. It looks like a $50 Million movie, though I am sure it was done for a fraction of that price.
Jorge Ali Triana has very few feature directorial credits to his name, but the man knows how to tell complex narratives quickly while still imbuing them with soul. Also, he moves the camera in ways that show great stylistic flair as well as dramatic pragmatism.
The casting is top notch too. The concept of the protagonist sleeping with a woman 30 years his senior is made believable through smart casting. Jorge Perugorría looks a bit old for 30 and Angela Molina, who won a Fotogramas de Plata for her role, looks incredible at 41. Better than women half her age. She needed no body double in her copious nude scenes. The two make sense together physically and are both are excellent in their respective roles.
The movie is not perfect however. It only runs about 100 minutes, but it feels long. Also, the emotional epoch of the story, Oedipus removing his eye's is left out. The film didn't need the gore, but it felt like an awkward cut.
Still, for fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Greek Tragedy, this is a good buy.
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