And what about the cinema? As a 'impure' art, it has always turned its gaze towards the great forefathers. Ancient tragedies have a ready-made screenplay. The problem is not just representing and reminding one of the tragic, but how to present a different viewpoint -what Godard would call the ethics of the angle. The Atreids is a cursed generation that always determines the dilemmas of justice and catharsis, Odysseus is the eternal traveller of the conscience; Orpheus descends to Hades to answer the determinative aporia of death; Antigone, Medea and Electra confront power, maternity, justice, institutions and morality.

Cinema did not only borrow from ancient narrative; it confronted them, and dynamically and creatively confuted their moral, existential and psychoanalytical content. From Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet to Theo Angelopoulos, from Jean Cocteau to Pier Paolo Pasolini, from Yiorgos Tzavellas and Michael Cacoyannis to Frieda Liappa and Nikos Nikolaides, from Gregory Markopoulos, Jean-Luc Godard, Luchino Visconti, and even Alfred Hitchcock to Miklos Jancsü, cinematographers seek in the ancients the eternal angst, the confirmation of human tragedy in all times and all places.

Cinema, however, is not just there to ponder on these philosophical questions. It also entertains the masses, on a broader scale than any other Art in history. At some point, for instance, cinema employed Heracles to entertain the public, which clamours for and believes in mythical victors as an outlet to its own defeats. Often sprinkling films with a good measure of mythological spice from other irrelevant traditions, the Italian Cinecitta studios charmingly tossed together ancient Greek myths and their Roman successors, and from this mixture emerged a two-dimensional Heracles, na•ve yet unconquerable- a thoroughly entertaining body-builder.


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