Oedipus Rex (1967)


Edipo Re

Italy; Pier Paolo Passolini

Parental Guidance – Violence, Mild Sexual Content

From the Italian countryside to the arid deserts of a mythical, ahistorical Antiquity, Oedipus Rex charts the doomed destiny of a child brimming with love but fated to bring only tears and hatred. Abandoned by his parents because of a frightening prophecy, Oedipus will be raised by the king and queen of Corinth. The childless couple receives the baby boy as a gift from the gods, and prepares him to be their heir. But as Oedipus grows, he is plagued by bad dreams and leaves the familial nest to face his destiny. Little does he know how unfair the battle will turn out to be.    

Oedipus Rex is a bizarre hybrid work of art that builds upon a Freudian postulate that lost its originality long ago: myths are psychological escape valves that include our frustrations and pathologies in a coherent cosmogony.  Jung also added another layer to the tapestry with the concept of a collective conscience that expresses something belonging to the human species beyond time or space. Passolini’s achievement comes laden with the philosophical heft of a rich scholarly tradition, but in this respect fails to bring something new and intellectually striking.

There is, though, a discreet post-modern streak, a quiver of sensual delight in the act of sin and a perverse sense of hybrids that finds its ultimate expression in the cruelest of mortifications.

However, it is on a visual level that Oedipus Rex is at its most striking and intoxicating. It is here that Passolini’s talent emerges. Creating a savage and gritty universe, the director eschews any artificial grandeur and instead adopts deceptively humble aesthetics. But the mythical dimension is thus only more pervasive, lurking behind every corner and in every shadow rather than simply on display in sumptuous buildings and decors.

An atypical literary adaptation, Oedipus Rex is, in many respects, more of an aesthetic manifest than an intellectual object. Passolini’s world is intoxicating, uneasily throbbing with horror and mystery. Getting lost in his striking creation is frightening, but at the same time exhilarating. 

Moc oedipus rex 300dpi press2 large

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