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Antigone 1961

Though limited by the staged look of the proceedings, Antigone presents the Sophocles play about a young woman up against the power of the state in a compact story that rarely hesitates before moving on to the next scene, and that speed and the quality of the writing helps mitigate the lack of real cinematic work in the visuals.

Irene Papas is the woman who must face down the dictates of her uncle, King Creon, who has mandated that burial for Polynices (Antigone's dead brother) is forbidden, and any violators will be slain. The brother has been declared a traitor to the city of Thebes (he fought a brief civil war against his brother Eteocles over rulership of the city, and they both died in the process), and Creon wants Polynices left out in the field where he died to be picked apart by birds and animals. This lack of burial is a humiliation and also a crass violation of the basic Hellenic religious feeling that dead bodies belong below the earth.

Antigone tries to enlist her sister Ismene in her plan to surreptitiously bury their brother Polynices, but Ismene is too scared to help, and Antigone proceeds alone and is caught. Condemned by Creon, the uncle and the niece debate the power of the state to override the religious convictions of a people, and whether the state can supercede the obligations of family, with Antigone firmly on one side and King Creon self-sure of a King's power to make, change and amend any law, written or unwritten.

Whether one sides with Antigone or Creon (and Sophocle's play makes it plain he himself is more sympathetic to Antigone than Creon), there is a powerful third force afoot which is pushing the cast of characters toward ruin and disaster because they are all caught up in a fervor and making decisions as if their emotions have provided them with omnipotence.

Irene Papas is a stately Antigone, and Manos Katrakis is a cagey, sometimes brutal Creon. Director George Tzavellas is occupied with just getting the story told in a clear way and doesn't venture far from the stage origins of the piece.

From the 1961 Greek language filme Antigone, adaptation of Sophocles Greek Tragedy of 441 BC also titled Antigone.


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