Latest update: 4/3/2005; 2:39:42 PM
quidquidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est ~ Seneca

REVIEW: From Scholia

Stelios Panayotakis, Maaike Zimmerman, and Wytse Keulen (edd.), The Ancient Novel and Beyond.

::Friday, December 12, 2003 6:53:33 PM::
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CHATTER: Electra

Here's one I hadn't ever come close to hearing about and it sounds interesting. One of the Guardian's film critics, in the usual end-of-year list of movies he loved and hated, mentions this in passing:

I also found a movie I'd waited 20 years to see, Miklos Jansco's Elektra, My Love, a subversive Hungarian version of Sophocles from 1974, just 75 minutes long and containing only 12 shots, each a small, unbearably exciting miracle of choreography and sublime camera movement, featuring huge numbers of ceaselessly mobile actors, horses, military regiments and unexpected surprises.

Further investigation found further description. Movies Unlimited describes it thusly:

Shot in nine long takes, Miklos Jancso's spin on the classic Greek play is set on a barren Hungarian plain where the titular heroine partakes in an ancient ritual while awaiting her brother's return before avenging their father's murder.

But the best seems to be at Kinoeye, which has a feature on Jancso's films and his style; there are also some screenshots of this one which suggest the film is rather interesting visually:

Based on László Gyurkó's play which was, in turn, based on the Electra myth, Szerelmem, Elektra is set 15 years after the murder of King Agamemnon. Elektra (Mari Törocsik) still believes that her brother Orestes will return to kill the tyrant Aegisthos (Jószef Madaras). Aegisthos orders his people to celebrate and announces the death of Orestes. The body he displays, though, is that of someone else. A messenger (György Cserhalmi) arrives with news of the death of Orestes and Elektra kills him. Resurrected, he turns out to be Orestes and, together with Elektra, provides the focal point for the people's revolt against tyranny. Their role is to die and be reborn like the phoenix, the firebird and symbol of revolution.

In Gyurkó's original play, Elektra was an avenger and wanted to kill all those complicit in the murder of Agamemnon and the furtherance of Aegisthos's tyranny, while Orestes had preached universal reconciliation. As a result of their disagreement, he kills her. However, in Jancsó's version, Elektra becomes a militant revolutionary and the people are not held guilty for their sins.Thus Jancsó returns once again to a reflection on the dialectics of power and oppression.

The film's basis in theatre makes its meaning much more transparent than films such as Égi bárány and Még kér a nép. Thus, the film begins with Elektra's discourse on tyranny:

Truth speaks, and law
Accursed be every tyrant and blessed every man who resists tyranny.
Blessed be every man whom a tyrant destroys.
Its conclusion provides its testament to the firebird:

Brighter than the sun,
More lovely than a jewel,
It was born of man's eternal dreams,
Its father was liberty,
Its mother happiness.
When landlords and factory owners have passed into history, when there is no longer bourgeoisie or proletariat, only then will man have a life of liberty, joy, and peace.

Yet the firebird shall still fly above us and perish daily,
to be born yet more lovely on the morrow.
Blessed be your name—revolution.

If these examples of revolutionary rhetoric may seem conventional, they remain entirely appropriate to their subject. Furthermore, the conclusion seems to advocate not merely the spread of revolution but its reinvention, suggesting the need for permanent struggle. While Szerelmem, Elektra provides a compelling account of a classical theme, its debates are not without their contemporary relevance. Aegisthos justifies his tyranny: blood brings order, government is based on the mutual fear of ruler and ruled, the law is a reminder of permanent guilt. As a result, the people are happy. Elektra, the teller of truth, presents her alternative to the people:

You're happy. I want pain.
You prefer a life of lies to speaking the truth once.
You've kissed the killer's feet. Where has it got you?
You've lied the stars down. Where has it got you?
You bought happiness and got terror. Where has it got you?
You only got fear. Tell me, was it worth it?

It is certainly possible to relate all of this to the compromises faced under Hungarian "socialism". Not only is the film's physical setting that of Hungary but, one suspects, as always, that the film's succession of Hungarian folk songs make its meaning much more evident to a Hungarian audience. At the most obvious, the use of the folk song Leszállott a páva (The Peacock has Alighted) —immortalised by both Kodály and Bartók—for the overthrow of Aegisthos and also the film's ending provides a fairly explicit Hungarian linkage. (In fact, a real peacock also accompanies Elektra's opening speech and the liberation by Orestes). Bartók's Allegro Barbaro follows Orestes's shooting of Aegisthos. When Elektra and Orestes ascend in a red-painted helicopter in the last scenes, this is not a clumsy portrayal of the firebird but an essential breaking of the film's aesthetic distance. It is not about the Greeks, it is about the present.

There's a motto for Classicists everywhere ...


::Friday, December 12, 2003 6:48:42 PM::
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pridie idus decembres

::Friday, December 12, 2003 5:52:56 AM::
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CHATTER: Halcyon Days

Delmarva Now has an interesting approach to those 'answer a nagging question' type column -- it's called Question Authority and they actually give the source of the answer! For example:

What is meant by the expression "halcyon days?''

Halcyon Days are a time of happiness and prosperity. The term comes from Greek myth, when Halcyone, the daughter of Greek god Aeolus, married Ceyx, son of the Day-Star.

Their marriage provoked Zeus, so to punish them for their happiness, he killed Ceyx's brother. Ceyx traveled to Ionia to consult the oracle of Apollo, but was killed by the tumultuous wind and waves. Halcyone, in her grief, threw herself into the sea, but was changed instantly into a bird. So deep was her despair that the gods took pity and turned the couple into kingfishers.

Since then, legend has it, Halcyone builds her nest upon the waves and hatches her chicks in the seven quiet days before the Winter Solstice and the seven calm days after. The sea stays calm to protect her and her children, and mariners credit the kingfisher or "alcyon bird" with the power to calm storms.

In this case, the source was the Weather Doctor's Weather Almanac feature for December 2002. The main site has a pile of information about various weather phenomena ... looks like something that could be useful when studying portents in Livy or Obsequens.

::Friday, December 12, 2003 5:30:16 AM::
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GOSSIP: Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

... or something like that. According to the Mirror, the action on the set of Oliver Stone's Alexander flick got a little too real:

ACTOR Colin Farrell accidentally stabbed co-star Gary Stretch while filming a violent fight for Alexander The Great.

The Irish wildman pierced Stretch's protective plastic padding and sliced him in the stomach during a climactic scene for the Oliver Stone film.

The former boxer was taken to hospital to get his wound checked, but was back at work yesterday.

Stretch, 40, admitted: "It was a very minor wound. It's one of those movies where these kind of things happen. We've all had few bangs and scratches."

The accident happened during filming on Friday night but Stretch struggled on to finish the scene,

He went to Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, Berks - where rocker Ozzy Osbourne is being treated - the following morning to get the painful wound checked over.

More ... Unfortunately, I can't find what role Stretch is playing (is he Cleitus?) but clearly we're dealing with the stereotypical ancient Macedonian drinking party brought to life. Nice to be able to drop Ozzy's name in a semi-Classical context too, however tenuously-linked.

::Friday, December 12, 2003 5:09:29 AM::
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AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Time Team: Cirencester
"Around 1,700 years ago, Corinium--modern day Cirencester--was
the second-most important city in Roman Britain after Londinium.
By about 300 AD, it had developed into a bustling, wealthy city.
Time Team was drawn to Cirencester by the opportunity to
excavate in the gardens of a number of properties near the
center of old Corinium. Though it has been said that you can't
put a shovel into the ground in Cirencester without unearthing
Roman relics, Time Team adds their 2-spades worth!"

7.00 p.m. |DISCU| Who Killed Jesus?
"Explore the figures, events and political climate surrounding
the execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Experts examine the
motivations and methods of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the temple
priests, the judicial system and the crowd calling for Jesus'

8.00 p.m. |HINT| The Twelve Apostles: History's Great Revolutionaries
"Separately, they were nobodies--a handful of fishermen, an
angry tax collector. But united by a charismatic Jewish
preacher, this ragtag gang shaped into history's most famous
revolutionaries. Meet Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip,
Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the Lesser, Thaddeus, Simon,
and Judas in this 2-hour special."

HINT = History International

DISCU = Discovery Channel (U.S.)

::Friday, December 12, 2003 4:51:40 AM::
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1. n. an abnormal state or condition resulting from the forced migration from a lengthy Classical education into a profoundly unClassical world; 2. n. a blog about Ancient Greece and Rome compiled by one so afflicted (v. "rogueclassicist"); 3. n. a Classics blog.

Publishing schedule:
Rogueclassicism is updated daily, usually before 7.00 a.m. (Eastern) during the week. Give me a couple of hours to work on my sleep deficit on weekends and holidays, but still expect the page to be updated by 10.00 a.m. at the latest.

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