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Amy Greenfield's Finely Spun `Antigone'

AN independent film of unusual ambition, Amy Greenfield's mythically charged ``Antigone/Rites for the Dead,'' showed recently in the Nota Bene series at the Museum of Modern Art, and then moved to an engagement at Anthology Film Archives here. It has now been acquired by a Massachusetts distributor for American theatrical release, which should gain a comparatively wide audience for the picture. Based on the Sophocles tragedies ``Antigone'' and ``Oedipus at Colonus,'' it retells the story of Oedipus's strong-willed daughter, who meets an unhappy destiny when she insists on burying her dead brother, Polynices, after his death in a vain struggle for control of Thebes.

Ms. Greenfield's version of this myth relies less on storytelling conventions and psychological analysis than on the nonverbal power of choreographed gestures, musical phrases, and rhythmically edited cinematic images. These are woven into a finely spun web that's unified by the familiarity of the underlying plot, as well as Greenfield's own presence as director, star, and guiding intelligence of the film.

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Critics have discussed it in contexts as diverse as the continuing relevance of ancient Greek values and the current urgency of the AIDS crisis; other interpretations are sure to emerge as the movie is seen more widely.

Janet Eilber and Bertram Ross, formerly of Martha Graham's dance company, are among the performers. The compelling sound track is punctuated by music from such provocative talents as Glenn Branca and David Van Tieghem.

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