Annihilating Clytemnestra: the severing of the mother-daughter bond in Michael Cacoyannis’ Iphigenia (1977)

Bakogianni, Anastasia (2013). Annihilating Clytemnestra: the severing of the mother-daughter bond in Michael Cacoyannis’ Iphigenia (1977). In: Nikoloutsos, Konstantinos P. ed. Ancient Greek Women in Film. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 207–234.

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Abstract

This essay examines the relationship between Clytemnestra and Iphigenia in Michael Cacoyannis’ 'Iphigenia' (1977), an adaptation of Euripides’ tragedy 'Iphigenia at Aulis', and discusses how the mother-daughter bond is obliterated by men’s longing for war, plunder, and power. In Cacoyannis’ cinematic reception Iphigenia becomes the first victim of the war sacrificed by Agamemnon on the altar of his ambition. The essay explores how the loss of Iphigenia leads Clytemnestra to renounce her role as a mother. Contemporary events in postwar Greece and in the director’s native Cyprus are interwoven into the fabric of Cacoyannis’ version of Greek tragedy in order to produce a highly politicized cinematic reception. Cacoyannis references these events in his receptions of Greek tragedy by focusing on how war and politics destroy the bonds that bind families and lead to insensitive political decisions, topics that continue to be relevant today.

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