- 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
- ŌĒÅ GORGON
- OEDIPUS REX
- ŌĒÅ ILLIAC PASSION
- THE CANNIBALS
- ĢEDEA
- NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA
- FOR ELECTRA
- PROMETHEUS IN THE SECOND PERSON
- VOYAGE TO CYTHERA
- ULYSSES' GAZE
- ŌĒÅ MATRIX
- O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

FOR ELECTRA
SZERELMEM, ELEKTRA
Hungary, 1974


Directed by: Miklos Jancsü. Screenplay: Laszlo Gyurko, Gyula Hernadi, based on the play by Laszlo Gyurko. Director of Photography: Janos Kende. Set Design: Tamas Banovich, Eva Martin. Costume Design: Zsuzsa Vicze. Music: Tamas Cseh, Bˇla Bartok. Film Editor: Zoltan Farkas. Choreography: Karoly Szigeti. Cast: Mari Torocsik (Electra), Josef Madaras (Aegisthus), Gyorgy Cserhalmi (Orestes), Gabi Jobba (Chrysothemis), Lajos Balazsovits (Courtier), Maria Bajcsay (Courtier). Production: Jozsef Bajusz for Studio Hunnia. Length: 74 min. Colour.

Fifteen years after the murder of her father King Agamemnon, Electra still cherishes the belief that her exiled brother Orestes will return to assassinate the murderer, the tyrant Aegisthus. On the anniversary of Agamemnon’s death, Aegisthus orders his oppressed people to celebrate and announces Orestes’ death; but the body he displays is not Orestes’. Then a messenger arrives with news of Orestes’ actual death; Aegisthus exults, and Electra bitterly strikes down the messenger. But the latter rises from the dead, revealed as Orestes himself. The people rebel and turn on Aegisthus, making him their plaything. Orestes kills the tyrant’s two chief courtiers, and Aegisthus himself. He and Electra recognize that their role is to die and to be continually reborn like the phoenix, which they identify with the red firebird of Revolution.

The firebird of Revolution
All of Jancsü’s recent films strike an interesting balance between consolidation, revision and advance: the main development in his work is not so much the straightforward aesthetic refinement that it’s usually assumed to be as a subtler and more volatile process of reconsideration, modification and addition. In this respect, the fact his idiom remains both constant and characteristically his is somewhat deceptive; he uses it not as a "trademark" or token of his authorship, but rather as a long-proven means of giving ideological stances a tangible, accessible form and drama. If there is a broad overall development in his work, it is the shift from the early (anti-Stalinist) chronicles of oppression (The Round-Up, The Red and the White) to the more positively Trotskyite accounts of revolutionary dialectics in action (almost everything since The Confrontation). For Electra, his first Hungarian film to centre on a woman and the first to be based on an existing text, takes a properly polemic place among the latter films. Marking Jancsü’s return to Hungary after three years (and two films) in Italy, it seems to have offered the chance to draw together the strands of his work in both countries; the outcome is a reinvestigation of the central issues of Rome Wants Another Caesar in a context more akin to the films on Hungarian history. It is dominated by a discussion of tyranny and people’s capacity for willing submission to it; it also develops the motifs of resurrection and disguise feature in Caesar, while "mythologizing" them into a drama that echoes the structure of Red Psalm. It is of course founded (the same presumably being true Laslo Gyurko’s original play) in a radical re-reading of the Electra myth, in which everything individual (from revenge to incest) is systematically translated into social and ideological terms. The opening and closing shots show horsemen riding across the Hungarian plain, while Electra’s voice speaks on the soundtrack: at the start they gallop through fog as if engaged in a pursuit, and Electra (speaking with the voice of "truth") champions those who do not acquiesce in tyranny and those who have been destroyed by tyrants; at the end, they ride with vigour but no aggression beneath a red helicopter carrying Electra and Orestes, and Electra expounds the metaphor of the firebird of Revolution, consumed in the flames of its own fervour but reborn daily with the rising sun. In between, the film charts the overthrow of the tyrant in a continuous narrative that assimilates flashbacks (the miming of Agamemnon’s death by Aegisthus’ male courtier), debates ("Guilty is the king who burdens his people with freedom, for the simple man does not know what to make of it"; "Only fear ties people to a tyrant") and rhetorics of oppression and liberation (the people shuffle in squads to the beat whipcracks and literally block their ears to Electra’s protestations, then later treat the overthrown Aegisthus as a toy) without deviating from its central thrust. Jancsü profits from what might be called elements of controlled or calculated redundancy-motifs such as nudity, smokescreens and animals that he has established in earlier films and can now, in a sense, take for granted; their supporting presence leaves him freer to isolate the main lines of his theme. He prevents them from falling into normative Jancsoisms in two ways: by making the setting explicitly timeless (witness the firebird helicopter in a story drawn from the ancient Greek) and, as in Red Psalm, by pushing them towards ballet. The result is that his protracted sequence-shots gain an extra dynamism from the counterpoint between the drama’s principals and their human backdrop, the people they champion or betray. Jancsü in fact vindicates his methods once again. His achievement is to have evolved a form whose constant factor is precisely its sensitivity to change, which makes it a supremely useful vehicle for dialectical cross-currents. Far from "perfecting" it, he is concerned to reinvent it in each film; in this hymn to permanent Revolution, he does so beautifully.

Tony Rayns
"Monthly Film Bulletin", Vol. 43,No. 504, January 1976