As it was already put, the best version ever of Homer's epic. Entirely shot in natural locations in the Mediterranean. The sea and the sky are strikingly blue, the islands green and untouched. The clothing is linen, wool and fur, the settings stony and bare, everything is somewhat rugged and primitive, a bit what you would find in Cacoyannis or Pasolini movies, and it makes it all the more authentic. Although the story is based on myths and widely goes into supernatural, it gives us a good idea of what life in the 10th century BC might have been like.
The rhythm is somewhat slow and austere, but the whole is so beautiful that you quickly get into it. Actually, it is amazingly close to the original plot by Homer, if not to the text itself. Ulysses doesn't appear until the first hour, the start being centered on his son looking after him. Then he suddenly appears lost in a storm, lands on the island of the Pheacians where the royal family takes good care of him. His adventures are told in flashback as a narration to his hosts : the terrifying Cyclop, the magic world of Circe, the Underworld, the Sirens etc. He finally comes back to his homeland Ithaca after 20 years, and it all ends dramatically with the killing of the pretenders of his faithful spouse Penelope.
As a story, the Odyssey is an unparalleled metaphor of the struggles of a man's life. The cast is brilliant and international here. Irene Papas gives us a typical Greek tragedy style performance as Penelope, but most amazing is the Albanian actor Bekim Fehmiu as Ulysses. Really good looking and totally convincing, it seems the role was really made for him. Strange that he was never offered roles of this dimension afterwards. Also playing Nausicaa is Barbara Bach (as Barbara Gregorini) later famous as the James Bond girl in "The Spy Who Loved Me", and playing Athena is Michele Breton, who was otherwise noted in the strange movie called "Performance" with Mick Jagger.
As it was done 35 years ago, the series was actually quite an innovation for its time, as the first big European co-production for TV (Italy, France, Germany and Yugoslavia). I have seen this mini-series in 8 parts on French television as far back as 1974. I was a kid back then, and although it was all in black and white, it left a very vivid impression. All my life long I wondered if I would ever get a chance to see it again, as it was never shown on French TV later on.
I recently found a copy on DVD (all in wonderful color) through Internet. It is unfortunately only in Italian with no subtitles, although French and German versions existed back then. I never heard there was any English version of this film as it is widely unknown in the Anglo Saxon world, and it's quite a shame. If you ever get a chance to watch this, you are not going to forget it ever.
There were not many versions of the Odyssey before or after that. The one by Camerini in 1955 starring Kirk Douglas is a classic sword-and-sandal like "the 10 Commandments", but not as impressive and very short for such a complex story. The one in 1997 by Konchalovsky is a meretricious Hollywood movie, based on special effects, sometimes quite gory, very poorly acted and grossly afar from Homer's story and atmosphere.
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