Yukio Ninagawa: “The Greeks” (Screencaps #3)

Following my review of Yukio Ninagawa’s The Greeks, this post contains screencaps from The Gods, which includes “Helen,” “Orestes,” “Andromache” and “Iphigenia in Tauris.” Read on for seventy-two screencaps!

Helen (Euripides)

“Helen,” easily the most lighthearted play in The Greeks, opens with its title character (Mira Anju) lying on a large cloth covered with Egyptian artwork. She fills us in on the backstory as she flips through a fashion magazine and takes sips from a beer can. What’s up with the sudden modern props? I have no idea, but I guess if they wanted to use them, best to use them in the segment most like a bizarre sitcom.

Menelaus (Takayuki Sugo) grins when he remembers that he’s married to Helen.

Helen and Menelaus before they’ve fully recognized each other. The chorus in this play has their faces covered. It creeps me out a little bit.

Helen smiling as Menelaus introduces her to his men.

Helen explains to Menelaus that she never went to Troy. I’ve never really known what to make of this version of the myth. It feels like an alternate universe fanfiction that somehow got promoted to canon.

There’s a sudden shift in tone that it seems the audience can’t keep up with. In the midst of a cheerful play full of wacky misunderstandings, one of Menelaus’s soldiers demands to know what the point of the war was if Helen was never in Troy. The audience laughs the first time he asks it. I don’t know if it’s meant to be funny? In any event, he soon leaves and we return to hijinks like:

Helen and Menelaus pray to the gods before they attempt their escape.

Menelaus thinks they’re done praying and makes to leave, but Helen is still going.

So he makes a half-hearted attempt to join back in.

Helen, dressed as though in mourning, with Theoclymenus.

Menelaus is happy to have found the real Helen.

“Helen” ends with some flute music, courtesy of this guy who looks like he wandered in from a different play entirely.

Orestes (Euripides)

Following that cheerful interlude, we return to the story of matricide and madness. Electra (Shinobu Terajima) opens the play. I love how the bust of Apollo has fallen to the ground.

Helen enters and asks Electra to pay a visit to Clytemnestra’s tomb for her. Electra laughs in response.

Look at this great pose! Electra asks Helen why she doesn’t go herself.

Helen calls for Hermione (Yayoi Kazuki), whose hair is a mystery to me, and asks her to go to the tomb.

Electra watches over Orestes (Kikunosuke Onoe).

The chorus enters.

Electra makes the mistake of mentioning Clytemnestra.

Orestes is always moving around when he sees the Furies so it’s hard to get a non-blurry screencap of him, but here is my best attempt.

Menelaus looking at his nephew.

Tyndareus (Kazuhisa Seshimo, who also played Priam) talking to his grandson.

Pylades (Masashi Goda) isn’t in The Greeks’ “Electra,” so this is his first appearance.

The old man (Tetsuo Takase) enters to tell Electra that she and Orestes have been sentenced to death.

The most dramatic part of Electra’s reaction to this news.

Most of the music in this production is slow and moody, but in the scene where Orestes, Electra and Pylades plot to murder Helen, we hear a lot of quick percussion and bass, almost like a jazz improvisation. I think I even heard some electric guitar a little later on. Meanwhile, the three characters pace quickly around the stage and up the aisles, excitedly shouting their lines back at each other.

I actually really love the whole “if you hurt me, I’ll hurt you back as hard as I can” attitude that Electra and Orestes take on. It’s fantastic to watch them act so completely ruthless and not even worry about whether what they’re doing is okay. I mean, I might not want to hang out with them in real life, but as fictional characters they’re amazing.

Electra tries to stop Hermione from going inside.

Orestes and Electra threaten a Trojan slave.

The next time we see them, Orestes is wearing armour and Electra is carrying a burning torch. Pylades is holding Hermione behind them. Menelaus and Tyndareus have arrived and are just out of frame.

Eight plays in and here’s our first deus ex machina. I really dislike that “Orestes” ends this way. The play builds and builds to such a tense situation and I always want to see what would happen if the mortal characters were left to sort it out themselves. Thinking about this the other day, though, I realized that the most likely outcome would be the death of at least one major character, and probably Euripides didn’t feel he could change the story to that extent. I would have loved if they had done something different for The Greeks, though …

Helen enters with Apollo.

Apollo is played by Mikijiro Hira, who also played Agamemnon. His whole look seems to be based more in kabuki costumes than in anything to do with Greek mythology. Right after this shot, he sees his statue on the ground, panics, and spends some time carefully putting it back in its proper place, which gets a laugh.

Apollo and his statue have similar decorations on their heads. A nice touch.

After Apollo gives everyone their orders, Pylades pulls Electra off one side of the stage and Hermione pulls Orestes off the other. The siblings are obviously upset about this and I’m upset too, because this is the last time we see Terajima’s amazing Electra.

“Orestes” ends with Apollo and Helen dancing, the chorus crying, and the sounds of helicopters. I’m not really sure what’s going on with any of that.

Andromache (Euripides)

Rei Asami as Andromache.

Hermione in her fancy dress. “Andromache” was one of the first Greek tragedies I read and I very much enjoyed how the first half is basically everyone throwing insults at everyone else.

Asami’s delivery throughout this scene is pretty great and she gets some laughs. Also, Chrysothemis (Sayaka Kobayashi) is in this play! She takes over the role of the nurse but first she gets to be in this scene too. When she first enters, she says that she came with Menelaus to see if she could help. I approve of replacing the nurse with a character we already know, but it seems a little strange to have Chrysothemis travel to be in this play when she wasn’t in “Orestes” which takes place where she lives. In any event, I really enjoy the above screencap, in which Chrysothemis is gasping at the sheer level of the insults she’s witnessing.

Menelaus arrives with Andromache’s son Molossos.

Peleus (Takahide Tashiro) chases Menelaus all around the stage and then rescues Andromache and Molossos. Another reason I like “Andromache” is because the way Andromache’s life becomes so entwined with the lives of Achilles and his family members is fascinating to me. Achilles and Neoptolemus ruin her life, but Peleus comes to her aid when she calls for him … it’s so interesting!

Chrysothemis tries to stop Hermione’s attempt to cause a scene after Menelaus leaves. (Chrysothemis herself is apparently unconcerned that she just lost her ride home.) She has a line in here where she criticizes Hermione for always going to extremes and says, “You really are a member of our family, aren’t you!” and I love that the audience laughs at that. Just a little House of Atreus humour for you there!

Pylades and Orestes arrive to talk to Hermione. Chrysothemis can’t stand to even look at Orestes and leaves.

I believe Euripides’ “Andromache” is set after Orestes has recovered, but here it’s set before, so that the last play can be “Iphigenia in Tauris.” (This is a move I totally approve of, because then the Iphigenia plays can bookend The Greeks.) Since Orestes in this “Andromache” is too out of it to talk, Pylades accompanies him and takes all his lines.

Hermione complains about Neoptolemus. Also, the set for “Andromache” has little flames burning along the sides of the stage! You can kind of see one on the right.

Hermione leaves with Pylades and Orestes. I have no idea how Chrysothemis is going to get home.

Briseis (Seika Kuze) is in this play! She joins the chorus in mourning her life before Troy fell.

Peleus and Andromache with Neoptolemus’s body.

Thetis (Kaho Minami) arrives. I have no idea why she’s holding her costume like that, except perhaps to be adorable.

Andromache listens as Thetis foretells her future. I like that they made sure the Neoptolemus dummy had appropriately coloured threads in his hair.

Peleus and Thetis reunited.

Andromache’s face as she listens to Thetis talk about how she and Peleus are going to be young and happy and together forever.

I love how, in Peleus’s short time on stage, he chases Menelaus around with a spear, rescues Andromache and Molossus, cries with grief, cries with joy, and then exits wearing a piece of his wife’s clothing. Peleus has no time for your limited gender roles!

Andromache’s speech and a wordless song from the chorus bring the play to its bittersweet but hopeful ending.

Iphigenia in Tauris (Euripides)

I love “Iphigenia in Tauris” a ridiculous amount. I have a stupid amount of affection for stories in which characters are reunited after a long time apart, and it’s even better when they don’t recognize each other right away. Of course “Electra” and “Helen” feature reunions as well, but what I like about “Iphigenia” is that it drags the reveal out probably as long as it is possible to drag it out. I thoroughly enjoy how Iphigenia and Orestes spend the majority of the play with no idea who they’re actually talking to.

Above, Iphigenia (Yuko Miyamoto) enters via the aisle. I really hope there was at least one person in the audience who failed to read ahead in their program and was surprised to see her again.

Iphigenia crying because she had a dream that led her to believe Orestes is dead. Now that she’s a priestess, she wears ofuda in her hair and on her robes, just like Cassandra did.

Of course, somebody thinking Orestes is dead is Orestes’ cue to come onstage! Here one of the men who captured him and Pylades is doing an impression of his reaction to the Furies.

Miyamoto is the only actor in the play who has to portray her character at the beginning and the end of the seventeen years, and I think she does it really well. Her facial expressions and the way she holds herself reflect Iphigenia’s seventeen years of suffering, but she still feels like the same character.

Iphigenia telling Orestes that if he has a sister, she’s probably worried about him. I seriously love this stuff.

I also love Iphigenia questioning Orestes about the heroes who were at Troy. She’s so desperate for information that she barely lets him finish his answer to one question before she asks the next. This is her face after she learns that Achilles is dead.

Orestes falls to the ground when Iphigenia asks about Agamemnon.

Pylades and Orestes after they’ve decided that Pylades will deliver Iphigenia’s letter and Orestes will stay behind and be killed. This play, you guys!!

Iphigenia hands the letter to Pylades, telling him to deliver it to Orestes.

Iphigenia freaking out as Orestes tells her everything he can think of to prove his identity.

Iphigenia and Orestes, reunited, wondering where their family went so wrong.

Kotaro Yoshida, who played Aegisthus earlier, now appears as Thoas. I admit I always laugh when Orestes suggests they kill Thoas. Orestes, that’s your solution to everything!

Iphigenia removes her priestess robes to reveal her yellow wedding dress. I like this in that allows a member of the chorus to help Iphigenia put on her veil in the same way she did in “Iphigenia in Aulis,” adding to the way the two Iphigenia plays bookend The Greeks, but I don’t like it because I always wonder if we’re meant to think that Iphigenia has been wearing that dress for seventeen years.

In our second deus ex machina, Kayoko Shiraishi, who earlier played Clytemnestra, plays Athena. I have nothing positive to say about Athena’s costume. Apollo’s has a clear inspiration that I can appreciate. Athena’s makes me think of the garbage lady from Labyrinth.

The flowers from “Iphigenia in Aulis” return to the stage and the chorus dances around them.

The pendulum begins to swing again.

The chorus goes back to sleep in their boxes, and The Greeks comes to an end.

Bows

So I promise I know that these are actors, but I always find it almost impossible not to watch the bows as though I am still watching the characters. So I love this shot for the sole reason that Clytemnestra, Orestes and Electra (here dressed as a member of the chorus) are all smiles in the middle there.

Yukio Ninagawa himself makes an appearance!

Iphigenia and Patroclus (Eiji Yokota) blow kisses just before the DVD ends.

Other Greeks posts: my review; The War screencaps; The Murders screencaps

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