If you have been watching Greek mythology-based movies, you must have also found how wonderfully directors have reinterpreted the same to cater to their modern audience. Not many might be aware of the intellectual movement that was quite prominent back at the start of the 19th century, called Philhellenism. Philhellenes never hide their love for Greek culture and it is Philhellenism that made vital contributions by noted figures like Charles Nicolas Fabvier and Lord Byron who advocated for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. These and few more formed stories were popular in ancient Greece and the staying power of such creations is prevalent even to this day. Here are movies that have kept the audience entertained around the world. If you are a true Philhellene, these should be on your must-watch list.
The first portrayal of mythology on the silver screen in a classic German silent movie was Helena. Completely based on the ‘Iliad’ (by Homer), the movie saw the light of day in two parts- The Rape of Helen and The Fall of Troy. While shooting, Manfred Noa, the director of the film used elaborate sets and several add-ons, which actually led the film to exceed its set budget. Subsequently, the studio’s finances were put in a dangerous spot. One look at the film and you would know it’s truly a ‘feast for the eyes!
Originally, the French film released under the title Orphee included stories based on Greek mythology. What is novel about the film is how it’s set in the ‘then-contemporary Paris and has been twisted a bit to suit the modern tastes of viewers. The classic myth is retold in such a manner where important portions of the source material have been incorporated to re-imagine the same. Hades, in the movie’s version, is depicted as the ‘Zone’ in a ruined city. Orpheus turns to look at Eurydice, but this time via the mirror of a Rolls-Royce. Directed by Jean Cocteau, this is the only movie of the ‘Orphic Trilogy’ that explicitly deals with Greek mythology.
This Greek-language film that was released in 1962 is based on the play by Euripides, which was a tragedian of classical Athens. The first installment of the ‘Greek tragedy’ trilogy- was followed by The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977). The film that was directed by Michael Cacoyannis received a lot of acclaims and even garnered a Best Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962 and also an Oscar nomination in 1963, for Best Foreign Film.
As stated before, the 1977 release Iphigenia is based on the myth by the same name that provides an insight about the tragedies of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra’s daughter who was initially ordered by Artemis, the Goddess, to get sacrificed. Cacoyannis continued his success story, this time with Tatiana Papamoschou, in the role of Iphigenia, and Irene Papas, who had also starred in Electra (1962), in the role of Clytemnestra. The movie stands out for its very execution and has also fetched several awards, notably the Best Film Award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival (1977), and the Belgian Femina Award (1978). It was also nominated at the Cannes Film Festival (1977). Papamoschou also got the Best Leading Actress Award for portraying the role of Iphigenia.
Another classic from Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, this movie is all about the renowned Greek myth of Jason and Argonauts. The focus lies on the sorceress ‘Medea’, who actually helped Jason in the quest for Golden Fleece. Much like the original story, Jason promises to come back for Medea and marry her, after he returns from his journey and is greeted with love and admiration; but eventually, he forgets about her. Jason later marries a Corinthian princess, whereas Medea begins plotting her revenge against him and his new wife. The Greek-American opera singer Maria Callas played the role brilliantly, apart from his singing. Even critics appreciated her and the film, but sadly it didn’t succeed from the commercial angle.
Philhellene or not, you must try adding these movies to your must-watch list. And if you’ve seen them, there is still plenty to add to the existing list. Check out the movie streaming sites to know which new ones are releasing soon and which ones you can binge on right now.