Electra, My Love (Hungary, 1974):
(Szerelmem, Elektra)

Miklós Jancsó's orchestration of movement always had affinities with dance, and in his version of the Euripides drama the roaming human masses stomping the stretched flatlands get molded and re-molded into geometric daisy-chains out of Busby Berkeley. "I was born to disturb men's peace," Electra intones (Mari Törőcsik), while the tracking-craning-swooping camera surveys a mysteriously muted carnival, horse riders delineating the horizon, peasant gals in vestal minis or painted naked, rows of synchronized whip-cracking -- just one of the film's extended 12 shots, the magician behind the lens turning back moments later to show the same plains now empty, only a shirtless figure twirling a sable into the distance. More than the post-'68 young rebels of The Celebration, this might be Jancsó's Hair, an experimental theater-piece (László Gyurkó's play was the original source) where the here-and-now of Hungary and the Soviet block emerge transparently from the Greek tragedy and revolution, always, is in the air -- Electra tells ruler Aegisthos (József Madaras) that "it is not you who needs destroying, but the system you built up," and the delivery is, accordingly, incantatory. He'll soon be toppled by vengeful Electra and her bro Orestes (György Cserhalmi), although the filmmaker's own anti-oppression bent scarcely prevents him from spotting in the fallen tyrant's ensuing ordeal the mirror side of his rule of fear, the shift in power not too distant from the senseless battleground table-turning in The Red and the White. Electra and Orestes, armed with pistols, end up circling each other in a deliberately drained Liebestod-on-the-prairie; yet Jancsó still believes in young change, and his couple is magically resurrected for the wacky utopian finale with phoenix-helicopter rides, lyrical bombardments, and the movements, hitherto claustrophobically restricting, now exultingly liberating. Cinematography by János Kende.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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