Scene from "iphigenia"
Directed by: Michael Cacoyannis.
Screenplay: Michael Cacoyannis, based on Euripides' tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis.
Director of Photography: Giorgos Arvanitis.
Production and Costume designer: Dionysis Fotopoulos.
Music: Mikis Theodorakis.
Film editing: Michael Cacoyannis, Takis Yanopoulos.
Cast: Tatiana Papamoschou (Iphigenia), Irene Papa (Clytemnestra), Kostas Kazakos (Agamemnon), Kostas Karras (Menelaos), Christos Tsagas (Odysseus), Panos Mihalopoulos (Achilles), Dimitris Aronis (Calchas), Giorgos Vourvahakis (Orestes), Irene Koumarianou (nurse).
Production: Greek Film Centre.
Duration: 130 minutes. Colour.
Best Film and Best Leading Actress (for Tatiana Papamoschou) Awards at the 1977 Thessaloniki Film Festival. 1978 Belgian Femina Award.
The Greek army is becalmed in Aulis and unable to sail to Troy. King Agamemnon has to face food shortage, the soldiersΥ mutiny but also soothsayer CalhasΥ intrigues, who saw the King killing his sacred cows, during a demonstration of his authority. Calhas, in order to take revenge, delivers an oracle saying that the winds will blow only if Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia. The ambitious army commander, orders his daughter to leave Argos and come to Aulis, under the pretext of marrying her off to Achilles. Clytemnestra arrives at Aulis together with Iphigenia full of happiness at her daughterΥs good fortune. But when she learns the truth, Clytemnestra tries, in vain, to change AgamemnonΥs mind...
Euripides is always contemporary because he has written about situations we have been experiencing for centuries now. Throughout his life, he struggled against corruption, oppression, war, ambition and religious preconceptions. I added some characters to the film, who do not appear in Euripides' play: Odysseus, Calhas, the army. In this way, the relationships governing the political machinations are demonstrated more clearly; war corrupts and destroys the human soul to such an extent that neither the individual nor the group can function normally any longer. Another conflict presented in the film is the one between the Church and Authority. By telling Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter, the soothsayer wants to destroy him. If the King refuses, he would lose his power; by consenting, he comes closer to his moral undoing. Of course, Agamemnon plays a game. He consents to the sacrifice because, blinded by ambition, he believes that the winds will blow. When he realises he has come up against a murder, he is already trapped. But, in this weak position, the measure of his ambition is the measure of his susceptibility. Agamemnon reaches this point only after being corrupted.
Ta Nea, May 1977
Primitivism and Nobility
By Tassos Goudelis
The "cycle of catastrophe" which began with Electra sixteen years before is tending towards closure: the Atreides family, perpetrators and victims at the same time, are the characters of a modern drama. The reasons for their suffering are divided or blurred between heaven and society. In Iphigenia, Euripides tries to find a "centre", a constant ideological reference point. With the completion of the trilogy, Cacoyannis makes himself even clearer on the quest for a similar "support". Iphigenia, shortly before her sacrifice, "undertakes", as she says with pomposity, the consolation of GreeceΙ The film, besides, has commenced by describing a sinful deed: the murder of the sacred deer, which brings about Calhas' bad prophecy. Within the context (defined by the presence of the divine and the final acceptance of this presence by Iphigenia, the scapegoat of the myth) the heroes, as in all Euripides' tragedies, agonise and come into conflict with themselves and the others in an irrational paroxysm.
Cacoyannis narrated the events with intense realism. Agamemnon, like the other heroes of the tragedy, is dressed with minimum pretence. His royal tent at Aulis looks like a barn. Clytemnestra and her escort come from Mycenae in carts. Cacoyannis - faithful to his perception of sets (a cross between a somewhat primitive setting and elements of nobility), a perception that accentuates the combination of instinct with the lucidity of emotions - placed his actors in a setting where the dominant elements were the rocks and the golden helmets; the temples and Greek folkloric palaces. The heroes speak and move as if they are acting in modern drama while the persona of Kazakos (Agamemnon) is extremely down-to-earth. Iphigenia is innocent and her character contrasts her fatherΥs austere personality.
In this tragedy (about which many scholars have remarked that it should be called Agamemnon), as it was directed by Cacoyannis, the leader of the expedition to Troy is the central character, divided between his need for power and his human sensibilities. The film has taken advantage of the bodies, the arid land, the ruins, the intense light and the darkness. However, it cannot compete with Electra, which is wisely constructed on the massive rocks that are internalised as a feeling and attitude of its heroes.
Extract from the article "Three Euripidean Tragedies by Cacoyannis", Michael Cacoyannis, Thessaloniki Film Festival -
Kastaniotis, Athens 1995.