An excerpt from the booklet essay by Peter Hames
(Warning: contains spoilers)

Based on László Gyurkó's play which was, in turn, based on the Electra myth, Electra, My Love is set fifteen years after the murder of King Agamemnon. Electra (Mari Törőcsik) still believes that her brother Orestes will return to kill the tyrant Aegisthus (Jószef Madaras). Aegisthus orders his people to celebrate and announces the death of Orestes. The body he displays, though, is that of someone else. A messenger (György Cserhalmi) arrives with news of the death of Orestes and Electra kills him. Resurrected, he turns out to be Orestes and, together with Elektra, provides the focal point for the people's revolt against tyranny.

In Gyurkó's original play, Electra was an avenger and wanted to kill all those complicit in the murder of Agamemnon and the furtherance of Aegisthus's tyranny, while Orestes had preached universal reconciliation. As a result of their disagreement, he kills her. However, in Jancsó's version, Electra becomes a militant revolutionary and the people are not held guilty for their sins. Thus Jancsó returns once again to a reflection on the dialectics of power and oppression.

The film's basis in theatre makes its meaning much more transparent than films such as Agnus Dei and Red Psalm. Thus, the film begins with Electra's discourse on tyranny:

Truth, justice and law speaks.
May all tyrants be damned, and blessed be all those who refuse to submit
to tyranny..
And may all those murdered by tyrants be blessed.

Its conclusion provides its testament to the firebird:

Brighter than the sun, more colourful than the rainbow,
More dazzling than any jewel
It was born out of mankind's eternal desires:
Its father was freedom,
Its mother was happiness.

If these examples of revolutionary rhetoric may seem conventional, they remain entirely appropriate to their subject. Furthermore, the conclusion seems to advocate not merely the spread of revolution but its reinvention, suggesting the need for permanent struggle. While Electra, My Love provides a compelling account of a classical theme, its debates are not without their contemporary relevance. Aegisthus justifies his tyranny: blood brings order, government is based on the mutual fear of ruler and ruled, the law is a reminder of permanent guilt. As a result, the people are happy. Electra, the teller of truth, presents her alternative to the people:

If this is what you call happiness, then I am happy to suffer.
You think it's better to live your life as a lie than speak the truth just once?
You have kissed the real murderer's feet. Where has it gotten you?
You have forsaken the truth, denied the very stars in the sky.
You’ve procured happiness, but received dread.
You got peace. You live in fear.
Look me in the eye, tell me: was it worth it?

It is certainly possible to relate all of this to the compromises faced under Hungarian ‘socialism’. Not only is the film's physical setting that of Hungary but, one suspects, as always, that the film's succession of Hungarian folk songs make its meaning much more evident to a Hungarian audience.
At the most obvious, the use of the folk song Leszállott a páva (The Peacock has Alighted) - immortalised by both Kodály and Bartók - for the overthrow of Aegisthus and also the film's ending provides a fairly explicit Hungarian linkage. (In fact, a real peacock also accompanies Electra's opening speech and the liberation by Orestes). Bartók's Allegro Barbaro follows Orestes's shooting of Aegisthus. When Electra and Orestes ascend in a red-painted helicopter in the last scenes, this is not a clumsy portrayal of the firebird but an essential breaking of the film's aesthetic distance. It is not about the Greeks, it is about the present.


Peter Hames' complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Hungary, 1974
Length / Feature
(Blu-ray/24fps): 74 minutes
(DVD/25fps): 71 minutes
Length / Special feature:
28 minutes
DVD: 1.0 Dual Mono
Blu-Ray: 1.0 Dual Mono LPCM (48k/24-bit)
Original aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Language: Hungarian

Blu-ray: BD25 / 1080 / 24fps / Region ABC
DVD: PAL / DVD9 / Region 0

Blu-Ray: £19.99
DVD: £12.99
Release Date: 26 Sept 2016


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