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Iphigenia (MGM World Films)
MGM World Films
Actors: Irene Papas, Tatiana Papamoschou, Kostas Kazakos
Director: Michael Cacoyannis
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2007     2hr 7min

No Description Available. Genre: Foreign Film - Other Rating: NR Release Date: 24-JUL-2007 Media Type: DVD


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Movie Details

Actors: Irene Papas, Tatiana Papamoschou, Kostas Kazakos
Director: Michael Cacoyannis
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 07/24/2007
Original Release Date: 11/20/1977
Theatrical Release Date: 11/20/1977
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 7min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Greek, Spanish, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Greek Tragedy Brought to Moving Life
Patrick J. Ward | London, England | 07/26/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is the last film in director Michael Cacoyannis's Greek Tragedy trilogy after his early Sixties "Electra" (featuring Irene Pappas in the title role) and his early Seventies "The Trojan Women" (which starred Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Genevieve Bujold and, once again, Irene Pappas - as Helen of Troy).

All three movies are based on the works of Euripides - who was born approximately 484 BCE and died circa 406 BCE. Out of all the ancient Greek tragedians his work has arguably the most relevance to a contemporary audience as it eloquently demonstrates the causes and nature of human suffering especially in circumstances of war or multiple murder. Despite our current familiarity with these subjects we may not always perhaps be able to fully comprehend the nature of the painful emotional consequences involved.

"Iphigenia" is significantly more low-budget than the visually impressive second film in the trilogy and yet it has it's own considerable emotional power. Like the first film of the three it is spoken in Greek with English subtitles.

As the film opens the Greek army is waiting at Aulis for the winds to pick up in order that they may sail to Troy. But they have been waiting many months and no such winds have arrived. The troops have become restless and are on the verge of mutiny. Agamemnon - the commander in chief - has sought advice from the Oracle at Delphi as to the best solution to this problem. To his shock and horror the answer returns that in order to sail to Troy and be successful in the ensuing war he must sacrifice his beloved daughter Iphigenia.

Initially Agamemnon refuses to perform such a deed. He attempts to seek any way out that he possibly can. But eventually he is persuaded by his brother Menelaus (the abduction of whose wife Helen sparked the Trojan War) that it is a tragic but necessary solution to their impasse.

Agamemnon decides to lure Iphigenia to Aulis on the pretext that she is to marry Achilles. But little does he know that Clytemnestra (played by Irene Pappas), his strong-willed wife, has decided (against his expressed instructions) to accompany her daughter to the proposed wedding.

The first half of this film is rather unimpressive. You have the feeling you are watching a fairly cheap Greek tv movie. And yet, from the point where Iphigenia (played by a marvellous swan-necked, androgenous young Greek actress) meets Agamemnon, her tortured father, the film really takes off. Clytemnestra finds out her husband's terrible intention and attempts to recruit Achilles as her ally in order to save her teenage daughter's life. But the wily Odysseus, with his demagogic influence on the Greek army, stands in their way.

The final twenty minutes of the film have as much emotional power as any play or movie I have ever seen. The sheer heartbreaking dilemma of the characters is conveyed in a stunningly convincing manner. At the screening I attended many people were on the verge of tears during this concluding section. I would unreservedly recommend this film to anyone with the slightest interest in either Classical History, Greek Tragic Theatre or an emotionally fulfilling cinematic experience."
If Greek Tragedy is to be filmed...this is how it should be
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 07/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Stunning, profound, expressive. This is Michael Cacoyannis' greatest masterpiece of three Euripidean tragedies. His first was "Electra" which was a stark drama in Black and White shot at the actual ruins of King Agamemnon's palace at Mycenae in Southern Greece. The second was in color - "The Trojan Woman" - a disturbing portrait of men's cruelty to the vanquished in war. The third, my personal favorite, is this film. While it involves the sweep of historical events, it remains focused on a highly intense family drama - a heart wrenching decision between duty versus love.

What is the story of Iphigenia? Agamemnon assumes the honor,duty, and responsibility of leading the troops of Greece to war with Troy so as to avenge his brother's mistreatment by a Trojan prince. Having killed a sacred deer of the goddess (Artemis), the King discovers the winds will not blow for the Greeks. That means his battle ships cannot launch. To persuade the Gods to give him the wind to victory, the King learns he must sacrifice that person most dear to him, his innocent and
virginal daughter, Iphiginia. Agamemnon's reaction when he discovers the terrible choice he must make is a frightful anger. He clearly does not want to lose his flesh and blood, his innocence, but he is also realizes he is asking his troops to risk death in the upcoming war. Ultimately, and reluctantly, he chooses death for his daughter. Eventually she discovers her terrible does her mother Clytemnestra. The mother refuses to allow it, but Iphigenia sees the honor of being martyred and chooses to die...and therefore to live for Greece.

The last moment of the film is everything Greek tragedy should be. We see the knife, Agamemnon's stark reaction to the horror, and the wind blows at long last.

Part of the power of the film comes from the stark locations...Here we don't see sumptuous palaces in, let's say, Richard Burton's "Helen of Troy." Instead, the action is filmed in the rough landscapes of Greece reflecting the tough, untamed ancient world. And the cast...the cast is magnificent. Tatiana Papamoskou is beautiful and fair...yet she radiates something more...a real heroism. The King, played by Kostas Kazakos, is vital, brutal, charismatic, and surprisingly protective of his daughter. His wife, Irene Papas, plays the profoundly strong Greek woman to the core.

I cannot imagine anyone who won't be moved by these stirring performances. Highly recommended."
"That any god is evil I do not believe."
Tintin | Winchester, MA USA | 09/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"NOTA BENE. The following review was that of the VHS transfer of the film. Amazon allows you to edit your reviews, but not your rating. If it were not so, my rating of this DVD tranfer would be ONE star only. I was stunned by the gall of MGM World Film! How dare they sabotage Cacoyannis' masterpiece? How could the idiots who published this DVD took so much liberty with the original film, cropping it on all sides. As a result, the long shots are seriously shrunk, the people in the full shots are most of the time cropped, and even more so the close-ups, which are badly damaged, giving the impression that Cacoyannis does not know how to use his camera. (Where is Criterion when we need it?) Therefore, I give ONE star to this disaster of a transfer, which has irremediably damage this beautiful production.

Mikhali Cacoyannis is peharps the first film director to have successfully brought the feel of ancient Greek theatre to the screen. Cacoyannis' film was based on his stage production of the play, produced first in Greece then taken on tour, where it played at the Classic Stage Company in New York. His own screenplay, an adaptation of Euripides' tragedy was far from easy, compared to that of the other two films of the trilogy he directed. The text of the original play contains many inconsistencies resulting from the fact that the play is thought to have been put together after Euripides' death, by his own son, using rough drafts. However, Cacoyannis, in his transcription of the tragedy to the screen, seems to have done away with these inconsistencies and ambiguities. The story itself has been very carefully deconstructed from Euripides' version and placed in a logical, strictly chronological framework, better conforming to the modern methods of cinematic story-telling.

The most obvious of Cacoyannis' changes to the original play is the removal of the Chorus of Players traditionally employed to provide explanatory narrative before and after key scenes. These choral interludes would have been alien to the pace of the film, and made for cinematic nonsense. As a result of having eschewed the chorus, the drama moves forward in a seamless and coherent fashion. Cacoyannis also added some characters to his film who do not appear in Euripides' tragedy: Odysseus, Calchas, and the army. This was done in order to make some of Euripides' points regarding war, the Church, and Government clearer. Finally, Cacoyannis' ending differs remarkably from Euripides'. Cacoyannis chooses to leave the ending somewhat ambiguous: is Iphigenia supernaturally whisked away, as in Euripides' play, or is she sacrificed, in agreement with the tradition? Not having Agamemnon's eyes, we'll never know for sure.

The film was shot on location at Aulis. The Director of Photography, Giorgos Arvanitis, shows us a rugged but beautiful Greece, where since the Homeric days time seems to have stood still. He takes advantage of the bodies, the arid land, the ruins, the intense light and the darkness. The harshness of the landscape is particularly fitting to the souls of the characters. The camera uses the whole gamut of available shots, from the very long, reinforcing the vastness and desolation of the landscape, as well as the human scale involved, to the extreme close-ups, dissecting and probing deep into the soul of the tormented characters.

Cacoyannis opens the film with a bold, accelerating tracking shot along a line of beached boats. This shot is followed by an aerial view of the several thousands soldiers lying listlessly on the beach. This is a very effective means of communicating Agamemnon's awesome political and military responsibility -- quite a different way from Agamemnon's recounting of these events in Euripides' original tragedy.

No word but "sublime" can describe the stunning performances of Kosta Kazakos (Agamemnon), Irene Papas (Clytemnestra), and Tatiana Papamoschou (Iphigenia). Since my Greek is, as it is I believe for most of you, limited to only few words, I must refer to the subtitles 100% of the time. But are subtitles, letters at the bottom of the screen, what choke you and bring tears into your eyes? Most likely not. I believe instead that the amazing power and sincerity of the acting is the reason. Kazakos and Papas embody the sublimity of the classical Greece tragedy. Kazakos' character is extremely down-to-earth, and his powerful look into the camera, more than his words, reveals the unbelievable torment tearing his soul. Irene Papas is the modern quintessence of classic Greek plays. In Iphigenia , she is terrible in her anguish, and even more so for what we know will be her vengeance. Her career spans more than fifty years, during which she has appeared in more than seventy films, including all three of. Cacoyannis' Euripidean trilogy. Tatiana Papamoskou, in her first role on the screen, is outstanding in her portray of the innocent Iphigenia, which contrasts with Kazakos' austere depiction of her father, Agamemnon. She received Best Leading Actress Award at the 1977 Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Cacoyannis is faithful to Euripides in his representation of the other characters, and his chosen actors have lived up to the tasks: Odysseus is a sly, scheming politician, Achilles, a vain, narcissistic warrior, Menalaus is self centered, obsessed with his honor, eager to be avenged, and to have his wife and property restored.

The costumes and sets are realistic: no Hollywood there. Agamemnon's quarters resembles a barn, he dresses, as do the others, in utilitarian, hand-woven, simple garb. Clytemnestra's royal caravan is made up of rough-hewn wooden carts.

The music is by the prolific contemporary music composer Mikis Theodorakis. Theodorakis' score intensifies the dramatic and cinematographic unfolding, reflects on the psychological aspect of the tragedy, and accentuates its dimensions and actuality. Theodorakis uses the richness of motifs from the first movement of his seventh symphony ("of Spring"), but also the Byzantium theme from his third and seventh symphonies.

This film and the story it narrates offer considerable insight into the lost world of ancient Greek thought that was the crucible for so much of our modern civilization. It teaches us much about ourselves as individuals and as social and political creatures. Euripides questions the value of war and patriotism when measured against the simple virtues of family and love, and reflects on woman's vulnerable position in a world of manly violence. In his adaptation of Euripides' tragedy, Cacoyannis revisits all of these themes in a modern, clear, and dramatic fashion.

The relationships governing the political machinations are clearly demonstrated: war corrupts and destroys the human soul to such an extent that neither the individual nor the group can function normally any longer. With the possible exception of Menelaus, whose honor has been tarnished by his own wife's elopement with her lover, everyone else has his own private motivation for going to war with Troy: the thirst for power (Agamemnon), greed (the army, Odysseus), or glory (Achilles). And so in a real sense, Helen became the WMD of the Trojan War. The War, stripped of all Homeric glamor and religious sanctioning, was just an imperialist venture, spurred primarily by the desire for material gain, all else being a convenient pretext.

Another conflict raised in the film is that between the Church and the State. Calchas, who represents the Church, feeling the challenge to his priestly authority and wishing to destroy Agamemnon for the insult to the Goddess he serves, tells him to sacrifice his daughter. In consenting to the sacrifice, the King comes closer to his moral undoing, but in refusing, loses his power over the masses (his army), who are brainwashed by religion. Of course, for Agamemnon, it's a game. The King must go along with the charade whether he honestly believes in the Gods or not. At first, he agrees to the sacrifice because, blinded by his ambition, he trusts that the winds will eventually blow. When he realizes he has ensnared himself into committing a despicable filicide, it is too late: he is trapped.

Is it a sacrifice or a murder, and how can we tell the difference between the two? By focusing on the violent and primitive horror of a human sacrifice--and, worst of all, the sacrifice of one's own child--Euripides/Cacoyannis creates a drama that is at once deeply political and agonizingly personal. It touches on a most complex and delicate ethical problem facing any society: the dire conflict between the needs of the individual versus those of the society. In the case of Iphigenia, however, as in the Biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac, the father is asked to kill his own child, by his own hand. What sort of God would insist on such payment? Can it be just or moral, even if divinely inspired? Finally, does the daughter's sacrificial death differ from the deaths of all the sons who are being sent to war? These are many deep questions raised by a two-hour film.

Euripides' Iphigenia is a tragedy for all time, and deserves a special place in the modern repertoire. Cacoyannis' film recreates for the modern audience that overwhelming, excruciating assault on the emotions that was Euripides' special talent, which made him, in his own time, a poet greatly loved but also feared.

Iphigenia received Best Film Award at the 1977 Thessaloniki Film Festival, and the 1978 Belgian Femina Award.

"To Wake Up The Winds" ~ What Cruelty The Gods Demand
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 07/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Note: Greek & Spanish with English subtitles.

The '77 film `Iphigenia' begins slowly and I must admit uninterestingly. The first images that greet your eyes are nothing more than a lot of half naked, Greek men lounging around a beach on a hot, sweltering, windless afternoon. You notice scattered piles of armor and other tools of warfare here and there serving as an indication of the time period of the tale that is to follow.

The mood is restless, even angry and the soundtrack amplifies the mood with appropriately discordant music. The men are anxious to sent sail for Troy and reclaim the beautiful Helen but the Gods have withheld the wind from their sails until they have been appeased with the sacrifice of their own choosing. When commander Agamemnon learns that the Gods demand the life of his beloved daughter Iphigenia he is coherced into sending for her under the pretense that she is to marry the brave Achilles.

Iphigenia (Tatiana Papamoschou) happily arrives in camp with her Mother (Irene Papas) and female attendants under the delusion that her marriage is at hand (This is where the film comes alive and captures the audiences rapt attention). As the lies and pretenses of Iphigenia's reason for being summoned slowly fall away and her true purpose for being there is made known the viewer is caught up in this heart wrenching tale of familial love versus blind obedience to an unsympathetic Divinity.

Excellent adaptation of Greek tragedy captured on film. The only thing missing is the outdoor amphitheater and chorus."