Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom/USA/Greece, 1971. Josef Shaftel Productions Inc.. Screenplay by Mihalis Kakogiannis, English translation by Edith Hamilton, based on the play by Euripides. Cinematography by Alfio Contini. Produced by Mihalis Kakogiannis, Anis Nohra. Music by Mikis Theodorakis. Production Design by Nicholas Georgiadis. Costume Design by Nicholas Georgiadis, Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca. Film Editing by Mihalis Kakogiannis. National Board of Review Awards 1971.
This stagey but engaging adaptation of the ancient drama by Euripides is probably the least effective of the films that Michael Cacoyannis made of the great tragedian’s works. It stars a surprisingly riveting Katharine Hepburn as Hecuba, queen of Troy, who stands amid the rubble of her ruined city after it has been sacked by the Greeks and awaits the soldiers who will come and make a slave of her. The drama then gives focal scenes to three of the significant women in her story, her daughter Cassandra (Genevieve Bujold) who has gone mad, Andromache wife of Hector (Vanessa Redgrave) who is prostrate with grief, and the woman who started all the trouble in the first place, the ship-launching Helen (Irene Papas). Cacoyannis’ film versions of Electra and Iphigenia had a more immediate, emotional power to them, possibly because they hadn’t been translated into theatrical English, while here the uneven collection of acting styles works against the project. Hepburn is marvelous, all fire and sorrow, while Redgrave is performing her role at the National Theatre, complete with all the arching motions that an audience seventeen rows back needs to see in order to feel the drama. Still, if you’re a fan of these women, and who in their right mind is not, you’ll find it worth watching regardless of its flaws.