Freely combining the contemporary cinema with ancient elegy and myth, Christophe Honoré’s Metamorphoses is a dark spin of Ovid’s iconic works of Latin narrative poetry. Loosely based around selected episodes and characters from the chronicles, the film explores enormous ground in terms of theme including lust, gratitude, love, belief and avengement.
It takes time to get into the director’s mindset and allow your imagination to run with the plots, and consequently the second half is better than the first. The mythological elements and the fable-like morals of the happenings between the gods and mortals are initially confusing. However, the one-foot-in-reality-and-one-foot-out kind of disbelief is represented onscreen through the protagonist Europe (Amira Akili), and does dissipate.
With a turbulent home life, Europe is seduced and led by Jupiter (Sébastien Hirel) who gives her anecdotal accounts of the mythical figures. Europe learns of and encounters a Christ-like Orphée (George Babluani), darkly volatile Bacchus (Damien Chapelle) and his hoard of hauntingly feral women, Venus (Keti Bicolli) and Jupiter’s jealous wife Junon (Mélodie Richard).
The costume and overall aesthetic is understated, non-fussy and casual. There is a naturist angle to the piece that sets a pure but nonetheless erotic current throughout. Male and female cast members alike give the camera full benefit of their beautiful and varied body shapes without excuse, invigoratingly far from the general hairless ethic of mainstream film.
The lyrical scenery and the grace of the cinematography are truly enjoyable, with both speed and points of swelling stillness enhanced by a soundtrack, which is charming and gives another modern twist to the age-old stories. The locations, wild and urban, are shot deftly and even the desolate estate scenes in Narcissus’ tale have a stoic beauty. The sequence telling the story of Atalante and Hippomène can only be described as a short ballet. The athleticism and fluidity of the choreography and pace at which the camera moves with the actors is refreshing and as romantic as the story.
Revealing how peculiar and off-the-wall Greek mythology is when played out with realistic special effects and in a modern world, Metamorphoses is only fearful if you believe it.
Metamorphoses is released in selected cinemas on 9th October 2014.
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