In 1961, Greek director Yorgos Javellas filmed the definitive version of Sophocles tragedy Antigone. This is the third in a series of three plays following the lives of the King of Thebes, Oedipus, and his family. It is unfortunate that Javellas didn't film the first two plays also, because the message of Antigone is more powerful if you are familiar with the plays, Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. Even on its own, this is a good movie, especially if you like classic tragedies.
In the previous works, Oedipus became the king of Thebes by unknowingly killing his father and then marring his mother. When the truth is revealed, Oedipus blinds himself and is exiled. His sons,Polyneices and Eteocles, eventually start to fight over the throne of Thebes. They both raise armies and clash at the city gates. On the battlefield, the two brother meet, and kill each other.
As Antigone opens, the battle has just finished. Creon now rules the city state of Thebes and has ruled that Eteocles shall receive a hero's funeral, but his brother Polyneices, shall not be buried at all. His body shall be left outside the city to rot as a reminder to those who would attempt to rebel against the king.
Antigone, Polyneices' sister and the betrothed to Creon's son, Haemon, is horrified at this edict. She sneaks out and buries her poor brother. When the king finds out he demands that the body be unearthed and a guard be put over it. A second time Antigone goes to inter her brother, but this time she is caught. Though most of the people of Thebes agree with her act, Creon, thought warned by a prophet, sentences Antigone to death and has her sealed alive in a cave. Haemon, is furious with this sentence, which sets the stage for the final tragic act.
This was a good production of a powerful play. In a lot of ways, this play was about the repetition of the errors of the past. King Creon has all of the character flaws that Oedipus had, arrogance, inflexibility, prone to rash acts, and this causes his downfall. Being a Greek Tragedy, this play doesn't have a really happy outlook on life, but it is very intense.
The acting was very good overall, though some of the minor characters tended to overact a bit, the main actors did a splendid job. The movie was really made by Irene Papas who played the title role. Her acting was spectacular, especially with the moving speech she gives in the scene where Antigone is being locked into the cave. Manos Katrakis also gives a powerful performance as the flawed King Creon.
Today's audience may find this movie a little slow and uninteresting. I read these play when I was in high school, many years ago, and have always found them enjoyable though. If you are looking for a good adaptation of a classic, this is it.
The only audio option is a two channel mono soundtrack in Greek. It was adequate, but not outstanding. There is a hiss present and occasional pops and crackles. The dialog is clear, though there is slight distortion in some places. The range is rather limited, with both the upper and lower ranges being clipped.
The movie has burned in subtitles in English, and there are a couple of sentences that don't get translated, but it doesn't effect your understanding of the story.
The video quality was about average for a movie this old. The full frame black and white image was very soft, with fine details being slightly blurry. The contrast is good, though some scenes are a little on the dark side, and the detail is fine. There is some print damage, with occasional spots of dirt, but overall the image is acceptable.
The only extra included with this film is a photo gallery with production shots and some press material.
This was a fine adaptation of one of the classics of world literature.
There is a nice short synopsis of the previous two plays, so if you haven't
read or seen them, you won't be lost. Though viewers who are familiar
with Sophocles other works will probably enjoy this movie a little more.
The picture and sound were adequate, but I really wish that the subtitles
were removable. In any case, a film worth checking out. Recommended.