Ancient Greek Women in Film (Classical Presences)

Ancient Greek Women in Film (Classical Presences)

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0199678928

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This volume examines cinematic representations of ancient Greek women from the realms of myth and history. It discusses how these female figures are resurrected on the big screen by different filmmakers during different historical moments, and are therefore embedded within a narrative which serves various purposes, depending on the director of the film, its screenwriters, the studio, the country of its origin, and the sociopolitical context at the time of its production.

Using a diverse array of hermeneutic approaches (such as gender theory, feminist criticism, psychoanalysis, viewer-response theory, and personal voice criticism), the essays aim to cast light on cinema's investments in the classical past and decode the mechanisms whereby the women under examination are extracted from their original context and are brought to life to serve as vehicles for the articulation of modern ideas, concerns, and cultural trends. The volume thus aims to investigate not only how antiquity on the screen depicts, and in this process distorts, compresses, contests, and revises, antiquity on the page but also, more crucially, why the medium follows such eclectic representational strategies vis-a-vis the classical world.

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fulfilment of Helen’s desire since Homer—to be accepted by the Trojan women. And so Helen is, deemed blameless by both the internal and external audiences. For all her similarities to 1950s blonde American stars, the film adds depth to Helen’s character by imaginatively echoing a theme central to Euripides’ play Helen: her dual identities. In the film Paris and Helen separately evoke the phantom of Helen and the split it connotes between her two selves. During her slave pretence, Wise’s Helen calls

Suns (2009), by the British singer-songwriter Bat for Lashes. The Many Faces of Penelope in Ulisse (1954) 151 though, the episode bears much more potent meaning in relation to the rest of the narrative. Importantly, we do not see the Sirens. This is in keeping partly with Homer, where they are not explicitly described either—Circe says only that they sit in a meadow (12.45)—and partly with the film’s general reluctance to visualize divine beings or monsters.33 The Sirens typically appear as

Jocasta. This role offered even more rich possibilities for female complexity, for Jocasta is, of course, both wife and mother to Oedipus, giver of life and its destroyer, nurturing female and dangerous sexual liaison: all the different female roles that were at least hinted at by her characters in Ulisse are here repeated. What is more, Mangano again plays two roles within this film: the mythical Jocasta, but also, in the film’s explicitly Freudian framing narrative, the modern mother (who in fact

unemployment, and existential despair. Johnny is a knowing protagonist, and his references to philosophical questions or literary allusions create a collusive bond between him and the viewer. Thus after his attempt at dialogue with the foul-mouthed young Scot, Archie, he tells Archie’s girlfriend Maggie that Archie has a wonderful way ‘with Socratic debate’. All this is delivered in a stream of deadpan irony. While waiting for Louise to come home from work, he has sex with the temporary lodger,

hero William Mandella and his fellow soldier and wife Marygay; this offers a glimmer of hope that there may be an interesting ‘Penelope’ role in the Hollywood pipeline. Ridley Scott has, after all, been known to create films with strong roles for women out of genres traditionally dominated by men, such as the road movie Thelma and Louise (1991). But what we really need is a complete rethink of the Homeric epic in cinematic terms, written and directed by women. The Coen Brothers had the right

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