Coming out on a single-disc Blu-ray package, the 1969 Italian drama “Medea” tells the story of a son who must steal the golden fleece from the land of barbarians to win back his father’s kingdom.
A take on the ancient tragedy by Classical Greek playwright Euripedes, this mythical tale features a disturbing vision of the complexities of love, betrayal, ambition, corruption, humanity, and revenge.
Presenting an extremely stylized piece that works within the confines of neorealism and surrealism, controversial Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini wields his own blend of classical mythology and contemporary social elements in this film. Unlike the more escapist nature of other adaptations of the Greek tale, which includes the popular 1963 adventure movie “Jason and the Argonauts,” this one is more interested in exploring the intricate and deep-rooted clash between two worlds.
“Medea” is distinct for its long build-ups and expositions that are mostly set in amazing locales and breathtaking backdrops. A number of its featured landscapes showcase magnificent vistas that readily pop off the screen. However, this picture tends to show its age with its blanched color palette. Although most close-up shots still offer decent to fine details, mid-range to full shots significantly become fuzzier on screen. Some noticeable issues on digital noise restoration also plague the film’s digital transfer.
On a more positive note, this work’s impeccable shot compositions provide diverse layers of mystic power and humanity to the story. The treatment used for the many wide shots with Medea effectively isolates her character in her scenes. This goes side by side her tighter shots that fill the frame with more intimate moments — where viewers can better absorb both the flair and deeper meanings of her character.
This 1960s offering features a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix with the film’s original Italian language track. The quality of the audio readily shows that the production team re-recorded dialogue during post. Other than the apparent lip-synching issue this caused, the cinematic piece’s sound design still generally delivers a fine dose of environmental sounds and haunting musical score that utilizes ancient instruments. These aural components help elevate the quality of the dated audio track.
Although this Blu-ray package only supplies a sole feature about operatic legend Maria Callas who plays the title role for the film, this one-and-a-half-hour documentary of her life and career is a suitably compelling material to include with the main feature. A theatrical trailer and an English subtitle option are also available in the disc.
“Medea” clearly uses its cinematic license in the way it detours from some of its source material’s original elements. Its surrealism may not suit all people’s tastes, but those seeking for a more non-conventional work that can strike them with a visceral blow into the subconscious may most likely appreciate it more. From the lead cast Callas’ impressively domineering performance to Pasolini’s stylistic gears as a director, the film’s emotional impact brilliantly contributes to the audience’s overall cinematic experience.
This Blu-ray release is unable to enhance the film’s audio-visual details toward impressive levels. Nevertheless, it is still a considerably decent package that can please fans of Euripedes, Pasolini, Callas, and those who crave for more palpable cinematic elements distinctive for this type of art-house work from the 1960s.