- LULU / PANDORA'S BOX
- DAPHNIS AND CHLOE
- FEDRA
- THE FUGITIVE KIND
- THE TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS
- PHAEDRA
- HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS
- YOUNG APHRODITES
- CONTEMPT
- PROMETHEUS FROM THE VISEVICE ISLAND
- SANDRA OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS
- THE GOLDEN THING
- THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS
- EURIDICE BA 2037
- IPHIGENIA
- A DREAM OF PASSION
- CLASH OF THE TITANS
- THE YEARS OF THE BIG HEAT
- ENIOCHUS - THE CHARIOTEER
- ANTIGONE
- EDIPO ALCADE
- THAT'S LIFE
- BLADE RUNNER
- VERTIGO
- MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
- ORPHEUS
- PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
- ULYSSES
- HERACLES AND THE QUEEN OF LYDIA
- BLACK ORPHEUS
- ANTIGONE
- ELECTRA
- JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
- GORGON
- OEDIPUS REX
- ILLIAC PASSION
- THE CANNIBALS
- EDEA
- NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA
- FOR ELECTRA
- PROMETHEUS IN THE SECOND PERSON
- VOYAGE TO CYTHERA
- ULYSSES' GAZE
- MATRIX
- O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

OEDIPUS REX
EDIPO RE
Italy, 1967


Directed by: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Screenplay: Pier Paolo Pasolini, based on Sophocles’ tragedies Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. Director of Photography: Giuseppe Ruzzolini. Set Design: Luigi Scaccianoce. Costume Design: Danilo Donati. Film Editor: Nino Baragli. Cast: Franco Citti (Oedipus), Silvana Mangano (Jocasta), Alida Valli (Merope), Ninetto Davoli (Herald), Julian Beck (Teiresias), Carmelo Bene (Creon), Luciano Bartoli (Laius), Pier Paolo Pasolini (High priest), Jean-Claude Biette (Priest). Production: Alfredo Bini for Arco Film. Length: 104 min. Colour.

Pasolini’s working of the Sophocles’ tragedy, though not wholly successful, has its very defunite strengths. Citti’s Oedipus is intuitive and primitive rather than intellectual; the muth itself is treated as a dream set in the Moroccan desert in parenthesis between "Oedipal" scenes in modern Bologna; and visually it’s often aistonishing, the harsh desert sunlight and dry buildings isolating the characters effectively.

Myth and mise-en-scène
Pasolini seems to ascribe the intellectuality of Sophocles’ Oedipus less to Oedipus the mythic archetype than to the critical spirit and scientific outlook of fifth century Athens, to the outstanding achievements of a generation of sophists, scientists, and philosophers, that is, to a precise moment in history. Consequently he has deliberately and, one might say, perversely chosen to create a non-intellectual Oedipus. Pasolini’s Oedipus does not want to explore the unknown. He is not concerned with the meaning of life. Nor does he share with Sophocles’ hero the propensity of an aspirant epistemologist for divisions and distinctions. Pasolini scrupulously avoids the inclusion of any scene in which Oedipus might be seen investigating, examining, questioning, inferring, clarifying, or demonstrating. The unnerving lengths to which Pasolini will go in this regard are revealed most flamboyantly in an early scene where Oedipus comes to a crossroad and must decide which road to take. He eschews any careful, analytical deliberation of his situation. Instead, he clasps his hands to his eyes and spins around several times in a movement that seems like nothing so much as a portentous prelude to blind man’s bluff. He then removes his hands from his eyes and walks off to the right.
Oedipus’ non-intellectuality is most positively conveyed, however, in the curious scene in which Oedipus encounters the Sphinx. In Sophocles’ play, Oedipus’ fame and reputation are based primarily upon his solution to the riddle of Sphinx. By unraveling the riddle that no other man could solve, Oedipus saved the city of Thebes. But Pasolini’s Sphinx, more Jungian analyst than Terrible Mother, does not propound a riddle. It rears its head and, speaking from behind a mask, informs Oedipus that there is an enigma in his life. It attempts to force Oedipus to look into himself and to question the mystery of his being. But Oedipus resolutely refuses to search for the truth. He not only concedes his ignorance but acquiesces in it. Rather than traverse the abyss of his soul, Oedipus lunges forward and slays the Sphinx.
Pasolini, a Marxist, likewise sees the emergence of the petit bourgeoisie with its attendant moral code as being a decidedly historical and temporal phenomenon. He maintains that in place of the soul, which is a transcendental reality, it has substituted conscience, which is at best a shadowy social convention. And so, in order to capture the mythicness of Oedipus, Pasolini attempts to reconstruct a pre-bourgeois mentality where conformity in conduct to a prescribed moral standard is not taken for granted. He has tried to place Oedipus in a more mythic, subproletarian world completely stripped of any traces of bourgeois morality – a world in which, to use Pasolini’s own example, a young boy, were he to discover that his mother was a prostitute, would offer her, instinctively and unabashedly, a gift so that she would make love to him.
So, Pasolini’s Oedipus is inevitably less civilised and less scrupulous than Sophocles’. [...] But perhaps the most striking instance of Oedipus’ amorality in the film may be found in the savage love scene that follows the revelations of Teiresias. Despite (or perhaps because) of the possibility of incest, Oedipus makes love to Jocasta brutally. He tears off her clothes and seems almost to be raping her. It is the most impassioned love-making in the entire film and is filled with the intoxication of exultant shame and the excitement of sacrilege.
Finally, by exploiting the spatio-temporal freedom of film, Pasolini is able to introduce into Edipo Re scenes and images that seem designed to speak directly to his audience’s unconscious, to penetrate the labyrinthine recesses of their collective selves. For example, there is a beautiful but ultimately elusive scene without any dialogue which shows Jocasta (Silvana Mangano) laughing and playing with her women in the palace garden just before she commits suicide. After her death, moreover, Pasolini cuts from a low angle medium close-up of Jocasta, who has hanged herself from the ceiling, to the city of Thebes with its barren hills – a long shot mysteriously suggestive of exhausted earth-mothers and hierogamies on the rocks. Finally, there are at least two scenes in the film which seem to imply a relationship, beyond the solely physical, between sex and death: a theme as old and obsessive as the myths of Eve, Pandora, and the harlot of Gilgamesh. Oedipus’ naked body drawing Jocasta down into a vast canopied bed is followed immediately by a disturbing close-up of a body, blistered and disfigured with plague, lying in the sun. Later, a high angle close-up of Oedipus’ hand feverishly undoing the gold ornament that fastens Jocasta’s robe is suddenly followed by a shot of a funeral cortege.
Pasolini’s Edipo Re is, then, an attempt to inhabit the realms of myth and dream. Pasolini has worked through the medium of film, believing as he does that images are closer to myth than words. Whereas Sophocles took the myth of Oedipus and clothed it in history in order to interpret the times, Pasolini has taken the myth and stripped it of history in order to enter more fully into the myth. Taken together, the two approaches bear eloquent testimony to the Protean nature of myth.

Robert J.White
Hunter College
"Literature Film Quarterly", Vol. 5, No. 1, 1977