1971 - Drama
Katherine Hepburn and Geneviève Bujold in "The Trojan Women"
Directed by Michael Cacoyannis
Writing credits: Michael Cacoyannis, based on Euripides (play)
Music: Mikis Theodorakis
Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Geneviève Bujold, Irene Papas, Patrick Magee, Alberto Sanz, e.a.
Lenght: 110 min., Colour
Tough to stay with, but a worthwhile experience
It's true that "The Trojan Women" is *very* demanding of our attention and focus. It has minimal sets and costumes, it's low on action, and consists almost entirely of actors reciting flowery monologues. The subject matter and the expert delivery of the actors are moving, but as another commenter suggested, most people may only get the gist of what is going on. But there's worthwhile stuff here for those patient and interested enough to give it a shot.
As I mentioned, the look of the film is minimal, and it's mostly talk, but the filmmakers use some nifty, artistic camera work effectively. Mikis Theodorakis' musical score is atmospheric and intriguing. And some unrealistic theatrical effects -- e.g. the townswomen are all dressed in heavy black robes and occasionally sing in unison -- add novelty. Along with the dramatic recitals are a few "action" scenes of great tension -- when Tathybius tries to seize Andromache's son from her arms; a fall from a cliff that is gore-free but still stomach-turning in more ways than one; the fury that the thirsty and suffering peasant women, denied water by their Greek captors, express when Helen of Troy (the woman who brought on their destruction) is given a tub of water to bathe herself indulgently.
All the actors, even the bit players, turn in respectable performances. Vanessa Redgrave achieves a convincing portrayal of a proud young aristocrat and mother whom events reduce to utter emotional desolation and violation. Brian Blessed does well too. (Patrick Magee also shows up for a small role). And I disagree with some other commenters' criticism of Katharine Hepburn for "overacting." She is on top of her game. She doesn't overact at all; most of the time she bears her great burden of defeat and desolation with subdued animosity. Then near the beginning, when her anger suddenly bursts out in one scene, it makes you sit up with full attention. ***Mild Spoiler*** And in the scene where she receives an executed relative and reflects over the body, her gestures and recitation really convey how much this hits home for her character.
This film may not be well-known, but I think Hepburn's performance is in fact one of the highlights of her later career. Her two Oscar-winning, higher-profile roles from a few years before (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Lion in Winter) were overrated roles, and her performances weren't bad or anything but not what I'd put up there with her highest accomplishments. Here in "The Trojan Women," at the age of 64, she does classical tragedy and plays an interesting role that pretty much has to carry a film.