Pasolini’s 1967 opus takes its inspiration from Sophocles’ parable, playing fast and loose with its source material, weaving a story which is in turn both lyrical and bewildering.
The film opens in an Italian apartment with the birth of a young couple’s son. As the day progresses, the mother and son draw closer together, the father pushed further away from this new found bond. In a fit of jealousy, the father takes the child, intent on murder. Rather jarringly, we now find the child abandoned in the desert and time has slipped far back into the ancient world. The abandoned child is found by a goat herder and adopted by the King Polybus (Ahmed Belhachimi) and Queen Merope (Alida Valli) of Corinth, who name him Edipo (played with an engaging, childlike quality by Franco Citti). As we follow Edipo on his exploration of Corinth, he learns that it has been foretold that he is to kill his father and wed his mother. Appalled by this, he flees his adoptive parents in Corinth to avoid his fate.
Following a violent confrontation with a fellow traveller on the road to Thebes, Edipo sets in motion a series of events that result in the prophesy coming true and, again, another time slip into the present day following the shocking and tragic resolution to the tale.
The majority of the story is set in the ancient world and these scenes were filmed impressively in North Africa. The stunning scenery, perfectly captured in widescreen by cinematographer Giuseppe Ruzzolini, becomes a character in its own right. As Edipo follows his preordained path, the barren, beautiful vistas shimmer and shine, unblinking as the character blunders into his self-inflicted hell.
Also noteworthy is the costume design. We meet so many outlandish characters during the film, bedecked in tribal masks, feathered hats, clanking armour and diaphanous dresses, all set against the hard baked sand and stone of the desert. At times it feels like a fever dream, filled with wild colour, disjointed and half absorbed images.
As with all of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Blu-ray releases, the image transfer and sound are uniformly superb. Watching this in high definition, in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is a cinephile’s treat of the highest order. The slightly grainy, muted colour of the film stock really is quite breath-taking. The extras in this release include the original Italian trailer for the film and optional English subtitles. Although this was reviewed from a promotional copy of the film, the retail version will include a 28 page booklet of Pasolini’s writings, an interview with the director and archival photos.
Reviewed by Richard James