Medea, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy 1969).

By Moira Sullivan
Maria Callas as Medea.
Medea by Pier Paolo Pasolini was made in 1969. The scenography was done is by Dante Ferretti, and it was his first movie. And I mention this because Ferretti not only did the scenography for a few other Pasolini films, but also for Interview with a Vampire, Shutter Island, Sweeney Todd and The Aviator. For the last two films he received Oscars.

To see Medea is a rare treat, because of the art direction but also because of the direction and script by the late director Pasolini. It stars one of his long-term friends Maria Callas as Medea, who is just brilliant.  Nothing is usual in a Pasolini film from the quaint costumes, which consist of elaborate costumes with jewelry and intricate cloth,  to the special way he tells stories.  The film was shot in Italy, Syria and Turkey.

The story begins with a centaur (played by the late French actor Laurent Terzieff) who speaks to a young boy at age 5, 13 and as a young man. He is not his father or mother, says the centaur in his final speech before he sends the boy named Jason on his way, played by Giuseppe Gentile.
 “All is sacred. There is nothing natural in Nature, my lad, remember that!”  
The speech is an allegory for modern life in which contact with our mythical roots is vanishing. But for this Pasolini gives no credit to any higher power “In fact, there is no god!” says the centaur. He is told to go to a distant land where which has been usurped by his uncle King Kresus. He sends him on a mission to recover the Golden Fleece. It is in the possession of Medea, a priestess who he convinces to come with him and marry him, after she kills her brother. Her land is one where human sacrifices are used to improve the crops. On return, he tells his uncle that the Fleece is worthless in his land. 

Medea turns out to be too old fashioned for Jason who is soon betrothed to the King’s daughter. Medea’s handmaidens implore her to use her magic to take revenge on Jason, and she kills their two children, his new wife and her father the king.  Though this should come as no surprise to Jason since this is the way of her land and the way of Medea. 

There is nothing subtle about the film. It is crude and powerful.  The story is shown rather than told, and the longest spoken dialogue is that of the centaur. 

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 06/10/11
Movie Magazine International


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