Medea - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Medea Reviews

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Robert B.
Super Reviewer
½ October 3, 2015
Medea is a very sullen, brooding production. While the film is put together well (with excellent use of sound), it is lacking in pathos; Medea and Jason show little emotion and come off more as pathetic rather than tragic characters. What's more, in the finale the film trails off and then ends, unlike the play, followed by end notes read as if from a Bergman film. But overall, I would recommend Medea for lovers of film, late mid-20th century dramas -- a high three.
Super Reviewer
½ July 18, 2014
Lars von Trier's Medea is an one of a kind adaptation to the classic Greek tragedy about a vengeful wife's plot against her unfaithful husband. Von Trier used a lot of unusual camera angles and imagery to tell this story in his own way. A beautiful film which lacks realism, if only more violence were used it may have been a better piece of work.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2014
I figured Tyler Perry owned this character and didn't figure that anyone else would make a Madea film, let alone, of all people, Lars von Trier... about four years before Perry's reportedly became active. Man, Lars von Trier is way too white for that joke to stand a chance at working, although that's not the reason why that joke is so discomforting. You know, even though everyone nowadays can't help but think about that when seeing this film's title, I feel kind of guilty about making a joke like that, because I just likened Tyler Perry to Lars von Trier, and likened a Madea film to Euripides's "Medea", even though that play is that good old-fashioned, pre-Christ type of theatrical melodrama. Yeah, if you people feel that Perry sugarcoats his histrionics a little too much, well, again, allow me to remind you that this is Lars von Trier's adaptation of Euripides' "Medea", so if it takes any kind of dramatic liberties, it's to push boundaries on how much you can disturb people... while still being clean enough to pass as a TV film. Shoot, this is European television, so I don't think anyone would have cared too much if this was one of von Trier's classic, near-pornographic shock dramas, and even if they did, this is specifically a Danish TV film, meaning that no one was going to watch it to begin with. Yup, von Trier had to take a break from all of those acclaimed art films that were all the rage at Cannes and head to television, and yet, he still couldn't get rid of Udo Kier, who in all fairness, probably shouldn't have ever gotten away from von Trier. Yeah, Kier would be lucky these days to get a mediocre TV movie like this, which, in all fairness, stands to be worse.

Whether they derive from television production funds or simply from questionable aspects to Lars von Trier's artistic vision, technical shortcomings stand firm, holding back style which still excels, thanks largely to cinematography by Sejr Brockmann that, despite the heavy analog grain, offers uniquely tasteful lighting and coloration which is sometimes haunting in its aesthetic, maybe even dramatic value. When style proves to be complimentary to, rather than prominent over substance, its effectiveness is driven, not by Brockmann's eye for visual beauty, but by von Trier's directorial eye for thoughtful dramatic storytelling, which, while near-tediously dry more often than not, has occasions of genuineness which are, in fact, effective. Directorial highlights are few and far between, but make no mistake, they are there, and the patient are sure to be endeared by them once they come into play, riding on the back of subject matter deserving of dramatic kicks. While thin enough in concept, and even thinner in plotting structure, the film's story has stood the test of time so firmly because it's pretty interesting on paper, with distinguished conflicts and tragic themes which may not open up a considerable amount of potential, considering the natural shortcomings and histrionics, but are still promising as attributes to a classic character study. When it comes to the execution of such weighty, character-driven subject matter, it's hard to argue that the most consistently effective strength in this film is the acting, which is not backed by too much challenging material, yet remains tasteful and naturalist enough to sell the depths of the characters whose internal struggles drive this film more than the storytellers. The film is misguided in more ways than we're used to in TV flicks, but at the same time, it's inspired in more ways than we're used to in TV flicks, with an artistic vision that, while overblown, is justified enough for the final product to at least earn some respect as a strong style piece and vehicle from highlights in strong dramatic performances, on and off of the screen. On the whole, however, the film falls startlingly flat, having its commendable aspects, and many more aspects that are misguided, perhaps even technically questionable.

As much as I give praise to Lars von Trier and cinematographer Sejr Brockmann for their salvaging a pretty solid visual style despite budgetary restraints, there's no way around the technical shortcomings that, when combined with von Trier's taste in analog filming, plague the film with an amateur, or at least television feel that probably can't be helped too much. What certainly cannot be helped are natural shortcomings in a narrative that, through all its meaty attributes which helped keep the story alive for many a century, is thin, and when the drama works to beef up, it's histrionic, in a way that could perhaps be embraced the same way it has been embraced since the inception of this Euripides tragedy if there was more development. The film ought to be driven by its characters, but no matter how hard the performers try, it's hard to get invested, as the characters go fleshed only so much, which shouldn't come as too big of a surprise, considering that the film, at a mere 76 minutes, without commercials, is so blasted short, seemingly abridged, not by an attempt to tighten up a TV production so that the Danes didn't miss the following program, but by a distinct lack of substance. For those thinking that von Trier would tone down his artistic ambitions in order to appeal to the Danish TV crowd, style is ultimately placed over substance, and no matter how intimate it may be as a character study, its human depths prove to be lacking, defusing momentum in a story that is conceptually to be driven by its characters and human core, not a style that is questionable by its own right to begin with. More than it is visual stylish, the film is narratively stylish, and not exactly in a worthy way, being intentionally disjointed and perhaps even rather abstractionist in its aimless progression, which pays little attention to development and ultimately stands as a startlingly short final product, but still takes time to drag its feet on and on and on, with barely any sense of plotting. No, it's plodding that really defines the film's storytelling, and that's really hard to forgive, although von Trier, as director, doesn't make matters any better, bringing back his classic thoughtful, perhaps even meditatively naturalist direction, which can work just fine, maybe even heavily when material kicks in, and, of course, doesn't really have a whole lot of material to work with, resulting in a punishingly dry dullness that is profound, yet still with one form of feeling: pretense. Von Trier is able to match his ambitions with enough inspiration for the film to not fall as contemptible in its arrogance, but at the end of the day, the film is tedious, and while I can't say that I hate it, I cannot deny that it comes pretty close to disaster as a misguided and cold misfire.

In the end, fine tastes in style, some highlights in direction, and plenty of strong performances drive worthy subject matter and provide glimpses of a much better film, ultimately obscured by technical shortcomings, considerable developmental limitations, a disjointed and aimlessly draggy storytelling style, and tediously dry direction, which ultimately crush Lars von Trier's "Medea", maybe not as contemptible, but certainly as a messy abuse of an artistic license that you'd figure would be more limited by television filmmaking sensibilities.

2/5 - Weak
Super Reviewer
April 16, 2014
Wonder how I stumbled upon this TV movie, and even more so why I decided to give it a go!! It's just a simple revenge drama with no exceptional execution that's (IMO) definitely worth a skip. Only its merciful runtime works in its favor (and that of the audience), and deserves a special mention..

Ends with the quote: "Human life is a journey in the dark where only a God can find the way. That which nobody dares believe, God can make happen."

½ December 22, 2012
One of the worst movies I've ever seen.
November 10, 2012
As good as what it advertises; A Carl T Dreyer film interpreted by Lars Trier.
June 10, 2011
rewatched 06/11
March 20, 2011
A film shot epicly by the genius Lars Von Trier, Medea is just another proof of what a great visionary this film maker is.
½ February 21, 2011
a very dull movie despite the great landscape shots...
½ January 1, 2011
An interesting movie, strong storyline with some disturbing scenes. It looked older than it is, possibly intentional, but the big screen scenery scenes just looked stupid, how or why Von Trier accepted this, I don't know.
December 22, 2010
(***): Thumbs Up

An interesting Von Trier film.
½ November 20, 2010
Made for Danish television, von Trier's third foray into film is a homage to the late Carl Theodor Dreyer. Based upon a screenplay penned by Dreyer himself, von Trier brings his unique sense of filmmaking to the table to create his most linear film yet. Gone are the complications found in 'The Element of Crime (Forbrydelsens element) (von Trier, 1984)' and von Trier's presence seems almost lacking here when compared to 'Epidemic (von Trier, 1987)'. In taking a step back from the material, von Trier is able to utilise film as a medium to enhance the story, instead of using it to replace the story. Still, as understandable as the story is, and as well crafted as the movie is, it is not without problems.

'Medea (von Trier, 1988)' is, at its heart, the tale of a woman scorned - and the revenge she enacts. Medea (Kirsten Olesen) and her two children are abandoned by her husband and their father, Jason (Udo Kier). He seeks the hand of the king's daughter, Glauce (Ludmilla Glinska). Fearing Medea's witchcraft, she is banished.

But this is a woman who is not willing to leave quietly, and resolves to bring destroy everything Jason holds dear. She begins by poisoning the king and his daughter, before hanging her own two children. Jason is left alone with his grief, while Medea leaves quietly. It's a compelling story with a powerful punch.

Yet in the hands of von Trier, it's so much more than a simple revenge tale. The frame is carefully filled with simply stunning shots, serving as an awe-inspiring backdrop for these characters. Certain scenes play out quietly as calculated rage is built. Von Trier allows the story to be told in edits and selected shots, highlighted most particularly in demonstrating Jason's wordless grief. With such a simple and linear story, von Trier really does an admirable job in bringing the events to life.

However, there is one crucial element sorely missing. It is easy to get caught up in the beauty of the film and in von Trier's film-making ability, but the story just doesn't hold up well over the seventy-five minute runtime. As simple and linear as the story is, at times the plot feels overwrought. The characters lack humanity, players in this macabre tale and on a collision course with destiny, powerless to intervene, and sorely missing any real cause for concern. Medea quietly deals with her rage, Jason ignorant to the revenge she is plotting, and what should be the most powerful scene - that of Medea hanging her own children - lacks any weight or emotion.

There is a distinct lack of compassion for Medea, and no sympathy for Jason. Without this emotion, the film doesn't end with a bang but a whimper. It's almost as if von Trier is afraid of pushing things too far, which as anyone familiar with his more recent work will be aware is a most bizarre statement to attach to von Trier. At times, the sparse plot is so dragged out that the movie actually borderlines on inducing boredom.

As interesting as the story is, it really isn't handled well by von Trier. Although he proves to be more than efficient behind the camera, he fails to give the story the amount of care and attention it is due. For purists, it is worth checking out - especially to see the way he handles Medea's character. Rarely does von Trier approach a female character with such ambivalence, often relishing in putting them through ordeals. Compared to some of von Trier's later victims, Medea gets off comparatively lightly. But for those unfamiliar with von Trier's work, this is not the best of places to start. One would be forgiven for thinking he was a distinctly average storyteller after witnessing this movie - an observation his other movies quickly disprove.
½ August 5, 2010
Not to be confused with Tyler Perry. You know the story of Jason and Argonauts? Well, that didnā??t have a happily ever after ending. This is what happened afterwards, how Jason ended up royally screwing over the woman that helped him, Medea. Itā??s Lars von Trier directing a script by Carl Theodor Dreyer, and for a made-for-TV movie, itā??s actually quite good. Itā??s a grainy print, but I seriously doubt that there is a high quality copy out there. Itā??s not a particularly uplifting story, but there are a number of great moments captured in this story of vengeance. Kristen Olesen, the girl who plays Medea, does a particularly good job in her role; you really buy her revenge. This isnā??t really my genre, but if you are in the mood for a slower-moving melodramatic period piece, itā??s worth checking out.
June 21, 2010
...What June 30 changes are you talikng about?
½ June 11, 2010
pithy review: an unforgettable scorned woman.
date viewed: 6/5/10
cons: play this is based on finished third out of three in 431 BC contest. protagonist has issues.
pros: nobody remembers the first and second place finishers, let alone still makes movies with them as their basis. great acting, unique visual style.....
recommendation: thumbs up....even though you may find it uncomfortable to watch.
½ June 1, 2010
"There is no greater sorrow than love."
January 17, 2010
Woman lashes out out man who has left her for a new wife. Made for Danish TV movie based on Dreyer script of the classic myth. A mostly sympathetic portrayal of Medea, filmed in a unique style meant to give the movie an older artistic look, although it seems mainly designed to hide the cheap sets.
½ December 21, 2009
Revenge is an understatement. A man sends his wife into exile to marry the king's daughter. In a fit of revenge, she hangs their two sons, poisions his new bride, and the bride's father (the king)...forcing her ex to commit suicide. A bit gut-wrenching, but it certainly keeps things interesting. :)
Super Reviewer
½ November 18, 2009
Lars Von Trier has an amazing style and he made me enjoy a story that I am not to fond of. He made the story of Medea realistic and bleak, which was a nice contrast to the fantastical nature of the source material. The style is unlike any other. The acting was pretty decent and you could really get into the characters. Definitely a visual film though, Von Trier has a great eye for translating word into imagery.
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