Oedipus The King

Watch Oedipus The King

  • G
  • 1986
  • 2 hr 2 min
  • 6.4  (356)

Oedipus the King is a cinematic adaptation of Sophocles' ancient Greek tragedy, brought to life on the big screen in 1968. The film, directed by Philip Saville, escorts viewers back to the epoch of Greek mythology and the city of Thebes, which stands cursed with a harrowing plague. The narrative, deeply rooted in the spirit of classical literature, is one of intrigue, destiny, and the often tumultuous struggle between man and the divine.

At the heart of the film stands Christopher Plummer, embodying the titular character Oedipus with a nuanced performance that underlines his character's tragic trajectory from revered monarch to his eventual fall from grace. Accompanying him in the ensemble cast are Lilli Palmer as Jocasta, Oedipus's queen, and Richard Johnson portraying the role of Creon, Jocasta's brother as well as a character of considerable influence and presence in the royal court of Thebes.

The movie introduces us to Thebes, a city suffering from a devastating pestilence that is decimating its population. Oedipus, renowned for his intelligence and leadership, rose to the throne by solving the riddle of the Sphinx, and is now confronted with the challenge of saving the city he governs. In a quest for answers and a solution to end the suffering of his people, Oedipus pledges to uncover the cause of the plague, unaware that by seeking the truth, he is simultaneously unraveling the threads of his own harrowing prophecy.

With the guidance of the blind prophet Tiresias, brilliantly depicted in a performance that encapsulates the enigmatic nature of the seer, Oedipus ventures deeper into the mystery. The prophet's ambiguous statements and warnings create a tapestry of suspense as the King pushes against the boundaries of what is known and what is ordained by fate. As he probes into the past and presses individuals for answers—the shepherd who found him as a baby, the messenger with ties to his origin—a chilling premonition begins to envelop him.

Lilli Palmer's portrayal of Jocasta offers a multi-layered performance, capturing the essence of a woman who balances the realms of power, maternal presence, and the unfolding personal tragedy that entangles her with Oedipus. Her interaction with Plummer's character is one of the film's focal points, exemplifying the gripping psychological depth of Sophocles' storytelling.

Richard Johnson's Creon, although loyal to Oedipus and Thebes, navigates a complex relationship with his royal kin. His character embodies the fragilities and strengths of the human condition, subplotting the main narrative with a story arc punctuated by political ambition, familial loyalty, and the weight of knowledge.

The film is visually compelling, weaving the dramatic elements of the narrative with the atmospheric aesthetics of ancient Greece. The sets, costumes, and locations are carefully crafted to immerse viewers in the historical and mythological world of the story. The cinematography captures the stark and imposing architecture, and, together with a haunting score, heightens the sense of dread that permeates the film.

Oedipus the King doesn't shy away from the philosophical questions that the original play poses. It dives into issues of free will versus fate, the nature of leadership and responsibility, and the tragic flaws that haunt even the greatest of men. As Oedipus grapples with the reality of the prophecies concerning his life, the audience is drawn into a contemplation of how much of our lives are ruled by forces beyond our control.

Director Philip Saville manages to maintain the integrity of the timeless classic while translating it to a medium that allows for a wider audience to experience this cornerstone of dramatic literature. For those familiar with the Greek tragedy, the performances amplify the themes of destiny and hubris, while newcomers are guided through the complexities of the tale with engaging storytelling and powerful acting.

As the truths are unearthed and revelations come to light, Oedipus the King strides toward its inexorable conclusion. Viewers are left to witness the unraveling of a hero, seeing him transform before their eyes as the weight of knowledge and prophecy settle upon his shoulders. The film provokes thought and emotion, staying true to the essence of the original play, depicting with reverence the grandeur and ruin of one of literature’s most compelling figures.

Oedipus the King, with its haunting performances, rich narrative, and the backdrop of an ancient world cursed by unseen forces, remains a potent representation of its source material. It beckons the audience to ponder the timeless questions that still resonate with us today, making it a poignant exploration of human nature that transcends the ages.

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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 2 min
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  • IMDB Rating
    6.4  (356)