Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jocasta + Oedipus in the Colombian highlands: Oedipus Mayor is really about Jocasta

Oedipo Alcalde (Oedipus Mayor), 1996, Colombia (dir. J. Alí Triana), screenplay by Gabriel García Márquez et al.0758NOTOedipus_Triana

Edipo the dashing proponent of peace leaves the big city, venturing into the highlands where mob violence has threatened the utter destruction of the region. A nighttime standoff at the bridge into one village results in Edipo’s dispatching his unseen opponent with a single shot. A clean bullet-hole obscures the windshield, and nobody sees inside. Two and two will not be put together soon enough. And, as violence will beget violence, the search first for Laio, then for his killers, brings blood feuds to the surface of the small town, with Creonte  
leading the anarchy.
       It is not that the participants are too dumb. The problem is articulated by Creonte: since the army is too weak private militias are in local control. “Do you think it a coincidence that the mob should kidnap Laius just as you arrive, Mr. Mayor?” Next thing, Laius shows up dead. Yocasta says to Edipo, “You chose an ill fated day to appear.”Indeed.      
      Yocasta (Ángela Molina) has squandered most of her best years in a loveless marriage to Laio. But she soon learns love with the handsome newcomer; he reciprocates. Any viewer of a film called "Oedipus" will have recognized the direction of this steamy affair. And the director plays the eroticism way up. It earns an R-rating, to be sure. The first scene of sexual intimacy between the ill-starred lovers is chillingly maternal. But the sordid reality of the affair dawns only very late upon Laius' survivors. Where the adapted narrative seems to surpass even its brilliant Sophoclean source is in articulating how deeply Jocasta longs to plunge unpleasant memories of her newly departed husband into the depths of her desire for Edipo (Jorge Perugorría).
The Freudian element is gratefully underplayed for a 21st-century film. The filmmakers leave these details for the knowing viewer to grapple with. Far away are the heavy-handed treatments, say, of Cocteau's Œdipe and Jocaste bedding down beside the cradle of the bride's conspicuously lost child, as Jocaste undresses her "big baby" and he calls her "my little mother dear." Ugh! García Marquez and Triana are considerably more astute in their presentation of Jocasta's ill-fated passion. The abiding effects of Jocasta’s galling error linger into the film’s last frames and beyond. For, though Edipo plummets from a great height, the film closes with him groping through thickened traffic of an evening in Bogota, a scruffy beggar in the metropolis, far from the highlands where he was momentary king.  This film, though, is much less about him. Whereas Sophocles — and most of his adaptors — forces the chorus and audience to ponder the height of the Oedipal fall to these gore-filled eyeless sockets and clicking staff, the final blood in Triana’s film comes from the belly of Jocasta sprawled on the floor of her bedroom, a huge pair of shears piercing her belly and the incestuous foetus within. She has made sure their baby died first, then she herself.
The Jocasta contrived by García Marquez and company never enjoys the maternal pleasure of childbearing, for in its brevity her fling with Edipo does not bring those cursed children Antigone and her siblings into a potentially happy home. Yet, Sophoclean Jocasta did have those years that may well have been joyous. Why should they not have been? What with the queen of Thebes celebrating prosperity alongside the king who could do no wrong. Sophocles contrives her fall as appalling and swift. She sees, to be sure, the writing as it forms on the wall; and she urges her consort to halt his investigation. At that point she must know; and gradual discovery of Laius' murderer is the point beyond which Jocasta will never know happiness again. But Oedipo Alcalde offers an affair between Oedipus and Jocasta that is only about incipient erotic love and the gutwrenching effects on the partners.
In the space of a 100-minute film, this director allows Jocasta to enjoy a new side of herself with the welcoming heart of a man she must not love. When it comes undone, Jocasta’s world is as bitter as it ever was joyful.
Jane Davidson Reid’s Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300 – 1990’s (Oxford UP, 1994) crowds all narratives about Jocasta into the articles s.v. “Oedipus”. Failing to differentiate between narratives, such as Oedipo Alcalde or Martha Graham’s Night Journey, that more fully emphasize the plight of Jocasta, is an oversight of the OGCMA. I would propose that this film be categorized not under Oedipus narratives, but especially among Jocasta narratives — OGCMA0623NOTJocasta_Triana. 

submitted by RTM

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