Ancient Greek Women in Film (Classical Presences)
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This volume examines cinematic representations of ancient Greek women from the realms of myth and history. It discusses how these female figures are resurrected on the big screen by different filmmakers during different historical moments, and are therefore embedded within a narrative which serves various purposes, depending on the director of the film, its screenwriters, the studio, the country of its origin, and the sociopolitical context at the time of its production.
Using a diverse array of hermeneutic approaches (such as gender theory, feminist criticism, psychoanalysis, viewer-response theory, and personal voice criticism), the essays aim to cast light on cinema's investments in the classical past and decode the mechanisms whereby the women under examination are extracted from their original context and are brought to life to serve as vehicles for the articulation of modern ideas, concerns, and cultural trends. The volume thus aims to investigate not only how antiquity on the screen depicts, and in this process distorts, compresses, contests, and revises, antiquity on the page but also, more crucially, why the medium follows such eclectic representational strategies vis-a-vis the classical world.
community of directors, screenwriters, producers, viewers, and academics, all of whom seek to impose different meanings and interpretations upon them. Part I HELEN 1 Gazing at Helen: Helen as Polysemous Icon in Robert Wise’s Helen of Troy and Michael Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women Bella Vivante Avoid looking at her, lest she seize you with desire. For she captures the eyes of men.1 Eur. Trojan Women 891–2, Hecuba speaking to Menelaus about Helen Hecuba’s words from Euripides’ play locate
has this effect on both Achilles and Paris.) Also unlike Homeric heroes, romantic heroes need not be powerful. In fact, power is something of a drawback, since it tends to undermine sympathy, at least according to the sensibilities of modern audiences who expect even their warrior heroes to be temporarily down—if not quite out—before they rise to ultimate victory. Power is particularly threatening to romantic sympathy, insofar as such sympathy 27 All the most substantial female roles in the
however, in the making of Troy this kind of casting was reserved for the male roles (notably Pitt). Despite rumours that various high-voltage stars were being considered to play Helen,57 the ﬁnal choice was a German with little movie experience and no public visibility in the USA.58 Eschewing better-known actors, Petersen was looking for ‘someone who was unknown, a new face, a fresh face’, in explicit contrast to his desire to cast Achilles as a ‘superstar’ (van Beekus 2004: 20–1).59 Petersen
32–6). Eliade (1954: 21). 108 Ancient Greek Women in Film Eliade, the primary function of a shaman, priest, or priestess is to constantly maintain his or her own communion with this sacred centre and thus facilitate that connection for others.65 Up until now, Medea has fulﬁlled precisely this function for her people, but on this occasion, when she ﬁnishes her prayer to the Golden Fleece, she catches sight of Jason lurking about in the temple. Their eyes meet and Jason gives Medea a seductive
seen and thus remained largely unknown until it was released on video in 2003. When it was ﬁrst broadcast, it was poorly received by most critics, although it was awarded the Jean d’Arcy prize (Bourse Jean d’Arcy) for best international TV ﬁlm in France in 1989. Von Trier himself, who generally is not on good terms with his earlier work with the exception of Epidemic (1987), said in an interview that he did not like Medea particularly, since he thought it was ‘too insubstantial’ and had ‘too much