In pre-war Italy, a young couple have a baby boy. The father, however, is jealous of his son - and the scene moves to antiquity, where the baby is taken into the desert to be killed. He is rescued, given the name Edipo (Oedipus), and brought up by the King and Queen of Corinth as their son. One day an oracle informs Edipo that he is destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Horrified, he flees Corinth and his supposed parents - only to get into a fight and kill an older man on the road...Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
I have recently watched the "Tales"-trilogy (Decamerone, Canterbury and 1001 Nights) and although I admired the cinematographic beauty, the luscious costumes and the exotic settings, I also had some serious reservations regarding the incoherent stories, the amateurish acting by scruffy looking locals and the at many times unnecessary graphic sex and nudity. But in this movie Oedipus Rex it seems as if everything falls totally in place, I was very impressed, I really do think that this is a masterpiece!
Pasolini used the original text of Sophocles' tragedy, so the story is tightly knotted, which gives the whole film a tangible urgency, it's as if we - like Oedipus - have boarded on an unstoppable train towards his unavoidable downfall. There are, apart from the at times stunning amounts of extra's, only two main actors. Silvana Mangano as Giocasta only appears halfway through the movie and has hardly any lines, but she plays her part impressively by her facial expressions and her stature. Franco Citti as Oedipus is the absolute core of the movie, he dominates the screen with his rugged and fascinating face, he laughs and cries and screams and all the time stays totally convincing as the at first self-assured ego-tripping hero, who gradually slips into the awareness that his whole life is based on unspeakable crimes and that he is toyed with by the gods and fate. Some reviewers thought he played way over the top, but in my opinion it was all deliberately so orchestrated by Pasolini, emphasizing the origin of a Greek tragedy that had to be delivered from an open-air rostrum to a distant audience.
The locations are dazzlingly beautiful, Morocco it seems, of course hardly appropriate for a story that pretends to be set in ancient Greece, but it works wonderfully well, as do the weird costumes which look like they were sowed and tinkered by the crew or the many locals themselves, but with the amazing effect of something out of a dream (or nightmare). The musical score is extremely subtle, at many times just the soft bleak rhythmic blows of a single drumstick, with an almost haunting effect.
Strangely enough the prologue and epilogue are set in modern times, this wasn't really necessary as far as I'm concerned, but as it was it gives us yet some other beautiful images, with the same vast green lawns and waving tree-tops as beginning and end of the movie, completing a perfect circle.
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