05 December 2011

Oedipus Mayor

Did you know that Gabriel Garcia Marquez co-wrote a 1996 film adaptation of Oedipus Rex? Me neither, but I just watched it. I am very sorry to report that it's not very good. You might even say it's bad. 

The movie is set in a war-torn Columbian village. Oedipus has come to help negotiate a peace agreement with the guerillas. Upon his arrival, he discovers that Laius - who was apparently a local leader, though his exact title is not totally clear - has been killed. He meets Laius' wife Jocasta (whom he jumps into bed with pretty much instantly, in some of the most unsexy scenes you could imagine) and her shady brother Creon. He meets a blind guy who keeps telling him he's doomed. And a priest. Not entirely sure what the priest's deal is, to be honest, but he seems important.

The end result is the same as the Oedipus story, but it packs very little emotional punch, partly because you already know what's coming, and partly because... it's just not a very good movie.

All the modern day stuff is basically padding. Nothing about the new context adds anything to the story, other than length and violence. I think it's partly meant to add some kind of credibility (this really could happen!) but it doesn't, at all. The bizarre parts are still bizarre, and what is more, you are very conscious of them as being the Oedipus story - they don't feel like an organic part of the setting. The guerilla conflict initially gives a sense of a seething underworld of political turmoil, which could be useful for the story, but it rapidly becomes arbitrary. A massive firefight kills a lot of the characters, which only highlights how unnecessary they were to the story in the first place. Maybe it's callous of me, or maybe I have a hard time getting emotionally hooked during movies with cheesy special effects, or maybe the fact that I have a terrible cold made me muddled and irritable. 

...but it wasn't a very good movie.

I just discovered that this post is in a weird darker font. Here's the thing - that Blogpress app that I was so into? It mysteriously stopped working. Crashes constantly. I emailed Support, they say they have a new update but the iTunes app store isn't releasing it for some reason. I dunno. The blogger mobile version is so-so - if you pause while writing and forget to hit save, you can kiss your entry goodbye (also, it doesn't acknowledge paragraph breaks, it just produces this massive block of text). I've submitted "feedback," maybe it will improve. In the meantime, if I want to compose my posts on iPad, from the comforts of my own bed, I do it in gmail, and send it to myself, then copy-paste it onto here when I next sit down at my computer (which is kind of annoying). Apparently, sometimes that leads to wonky color changes. Who knew?


Chris Love said...

Luckily, I read your posts in Google Reader, so the weird font thing was not a problem.

In fact, I taught Oedipus Mayor last year, and even considered writing about the movie, since it would perfectly fit what I'm working on.

But. But. Alas. No. It was as if Marquez couldn't get past what he loved--what he specifically loved--about Sophocles' play. He's written that the play was a huge influence on his own work. But to make an modern adaptation work, you can't just swap swords for guns, and Delphi for Catholicism. It can't be algebraic. And this one was. And it ended up sinking what was tragic about the play in a lot of bad melodrama.

There. I said it. Feeling much better now.

culture_vulture said...

It's gonna be ok man, it's gonna be... ok. Heh heh.

Yeah, I really wanted to love it too. It's so disappointing, because you can imagine what an amazing job Marquez could have done with it, and try as I might, I really couldn't see much good in this one.

Though it does occur to me, in retrospect, that it's interesting that he actually shows the sex scenes. I just showed the vegetables version of Oedipus - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NydKPClhYgM -
and one of the things we discussed afterwards was how the sex and violence in the play happens off-stage. Showing incest on screen, you'd think, would be a pretty big no-no. I guess if anyone could get away with it, it's Marquez, heh heh. Though the sex scenes were pretty awful, even if you didn't think about the incest.