“Medea” is not only the resurrection of Euripides’ tragedy before cine-audiences of our days. It is a proof that great works of art from the past are not only relevant for our life today according to the same terms as they were perceived earlier (as a representation of tragedy as a private behavior, as a cast of human souls), but some can be relevant as a characterization of systemic norms of functioning of today’s societies. In “Medea” Pasolini classifies the forms of violence in various societies connected with one another through historical contiguity, and shows how types of violence in societies others than the one we’re born in can be taken by us much more traumatically than the violence we’re used to because it is ideologically normalized by our habitual worldview. So, when a person from a more archaic society, for example, encounters violence from a more advance society, it can put him/her in an extreme despair and fury capable of triggering intense revengeful reaction. Medea who is born in an archaic society where human sacrifice was a natural order of life and where she betrayed and murdered her own brother to help Jason to steal and run away with the Golden Fleece, wasn’t able to take Jason’s betrayal when they settled in a society which we can call proto-democratic. Here, personal betrayal because of intense fight for social success in a situation of competition for a higher place in the social hierarchy (Jason), and polite disrespect toward Medea’s suffering on the part of the king of Corinth (Cresus, the father of Jason’s wife to be), triggered in Medea nightmarish reaction of terrorist revenge.

Pasolini found a way to make the essence of Medea’s predicament a typical experience of the age of global economy and manipulative and corrupting “interventionism” into the Third World countries. Pasolini makes a personal drama of the characters rooted in the socio-political determinants of human behavior. By thinking about himself as about a generous person helping the new-comers to succeed in his kingdom, king Cresus appeals to Medea’s good will by asking her to liberate Jason from his marital obligations because of the beauty of Jason’s and his daughter’s pure and sovereign love for one another. That’s how global corporations today build their diplomacy with the Third World countries – they insult the locals just by matter-of-factly implying that West is much more superior to the less developed countries and that it is their “right” to tell other people what to do and bribe the Eastern and Southern countries’ elites and deprive these countries of their own economic development. In this sense Pasolini’s “Medea” is a premonition of the Middle Eastern terrorism of the 21st century. By watching this film about the events which took place in the Ancient world, we feel ourselves closer to our reality today, to its psychological and cultural roots.

Ultimately Pasolini’s film is about the semantic songs of psychological and cultural archetypes of the human history. Actors personify the hopes and agonies of universal human drives and desires with exactitude and almost an unbearably intense poetic power. “Medea” is a visual music of human emotions, an anthropological opera, existential dream of the truth of human life and death.

Pasolini and Maria Callas at the “Medea” premiere in Paris
Pasolini and Maria Callas at the “Medea” premiere in Paris

Moved by the overwhelming power of the archetype to realize her female destiny according to the social convention (the sacredness of marital ties and fundamentalism of marriage as social institution) Medea is going about killing her brother Apsirto. Look at Maria Callas’ gaze – Medea already doesn’t see her brother, she sees through him her future with her husband Jason.

Impressive by the aura of his wisdom and by his spiritual sensitivity, Centaur Chiron (Laurent Terzieff) teaches Jason-the boy about life, its sacred origins and inevitability of intra-human fight for power

Jason is full of pride for being able to possess Medea. Right after his first ejaculations, still lying on Medea’s body, Jason looks at the viewers – at the world, as if, taking people as witnesses of his tremendous success of getting a princess as a wife, of becoming somebody – independent from his family always telling him what he should do.

Last embrace between Medea and Jason – as a traditional male he, after intercourse, is already in post-coitum relaxation. Now, after their marriage Medea appeals for his touch, but for him there is nothing to achieve here.

Medea is talking to Jason after murdering their two sons

Posted on Jan 26, 2014 –   Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” (1969) – Medea As An Apocalyptic Muse by Acting-Out Politics