Uncovering Curiosities: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s OEDIPUS REX

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1967 film, Oedipus Rex is a powerful and thought provoking adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy.

Oedipus Rex, is impressively shot (filmed in Morocco), with strong performances and it features some very impressive sound design. It’s slow to get going, but when it gains momentum it is captivating viewing.

Bookended by pre and post war Italy sequences, Oedipus Rex charts the story of Oedipus (Franco Citti), who, as a baby is left for dead in the desert. Discovered by a wanderer, he is taken to the King who raises him as his own. Troubled by strange dreams, Oedipus goes to see a fortune teller, who foresees that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Oedipus doesn’t take this news well and he decides not to return home – but that’s when his problems really begin.

Oedipus Rex is a gritty interpretation of Sophocles’ tale. It’s devoid of any glitz, offering a earthy look at the tragic story. The film is filled with interesting faces (and some nifty head-gear), which blend well with the scorched Moroccan landscape. This isn’t a Hollywood style epic; Pasolini chooses to the shoot the film using handheld cameras, involving the viewer in the action, but it also gives it a dream-like quality.

I’m not quite sure if the “present day” bookends are necessary for the film, sure they add social commentary, but they take away the power of the core story.

Oedipus Rex offers a great introduction into Pasolini’s work, at a time when Italian cinema was breaking new ground on the international scene. A worthy, but powerful watch.

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