On the movie Recycling Medea (excerpts)
… Asteris Kutulas has made a film on the crisis, on the protests and the story of Medea, the child murderess from Greek mythology. The result, however, is no documentary, but rather a cinematic essay, a visually striking collage that interweaves the protest marches and a Medea ballet production. And he does it to harrowing effect since the presence of prima ballerina Maria Kousouni, combined with the burning streets of Athens, proves an artful plot device with resounding pathos. Not to forget composer Mikis Theodorakis who does not remain the mute composer behind the scenes, but chooses to voice his own opinion. “If I was young today, they might also call me a terrorist”, he states …
Andreas Thamm, 15 November 2013
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Society: a power hungry, child-murdering entity. In this case, Greece. Two years ago in Athens, Asteris Kutulas watched the Medea choreography by Renato Zanella, head of the Athens National Ballet. The ensemble’s performance inspired this filmic experiment and contemporary reflection of the Greek situation. It explores the tragic figure of Medea who decides to take murderous revenge against her husband’s – avaricious and vain – betrayal. In Zanella’s Medea, terrific prima ballerina Maria Kousouni plays the leading role and key part in a film that is based on two choreographies, artistic and spontaneous. In the latter, Kutulas frequently contrasts the dance sequences with recordings of Greek youngsters, caught up in protests against a state that has robbed them of their future…
Jochen Schmoldt, December 2013
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Excerpt from the FAZ review of the premiere
… The ballet’s key scene also defines the entire film; it is its quintessence: Jason casts Medea out because he wants to marry another. A “shift in values” that requires and demands unfettered freedom. “If you wish to be free”, Medea retorts, “you will lose your children.”
Prima ballerina Maria Kousouni is from Athens and a brilliant, fantastic Medea. Renato Zanella, whose masterly choreographies have already graced Stuttgart, Berlin and especially Vienna, commands Kutulas’ film with his ensemble … Kutulas and his editor Babette Rosenbaum have edited Zanella’s stern danse macabre into harsh scenes of the Greek youth’s physical actions against the government. These monochrome documentary sequences, rarely illuminated by the occasional orange glow of burning streets, see them face the state’s power. It is a ballet of a different kind: that of stamping police boots, light-footed sneakers on the run and injured human bodies hitting the pavement.
Kutulas’ achievement, and that of his team, is the seamless interplay of these dance and street scenes. The almost wordless narration of the suffering murderess, carried by Theodorakis’ powerful music; Medea’s staged emergence from her terrible past; the viewer’s involuntary involvement in the atrocious present, in this everyday war of the generations set against the splendid façade of the parliament on Syntagma Square …
An audience of 1,200 – mostly young people – had flocked to the film’s premiere at Athens’ Theater Badminton. A rousing success, considering the enforced lack of advertising or public announcements: On express government orders, and a mere week before the film’s release, Recycling Medea’s intended promotional partner – state-owned TV and radio station ERT – had ceased operations. The enthusiastic audience, however, not only celebrated Kutulas and his dancers, but most of all wheelchair-bound Mikis Theodorakis, who had been pushed into the theatre by helpers. Edited into one of the work’s vicious fight scenes, the 53-year-old director lets the 87-year-old composer sigh, “If I was young today, they might also call me a terrorist”.
So, what kind of work is this? A music or ballet film? A political work or a documentary? According to the director, it is all of this and none at all. And yet, its context makes this a political film, first and foremost …
Hansgeorg Hermann, 4 July 2013
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
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The moral lesson of this epic poetic feature film raised my consciousness from the inside out. This is not art for art’s sake. It is art with a deep compassion for humanity. The pacing is fast and the message clear: the future of our children has been seriously compromised. Kutulas’ film should be viewed by a wide and diverse audience.
Spyros D. Orfanos, Ph.D., 2015
New York University – Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis
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Recycling Medea blends classical and modern dance with contemporary scenes of young people protesting austerity measures. According to the description of this powerful cinematic experiment, “Greece murders its children by destroying their future” … Spun from the associative and music-led montage of dance scenes and images showing frail and belligerent youths arises a filmic and identity-defining national anthem on contemporary events, retelling the legend against the backdrop of current crises.
Dunja Bialas, 14 November 2013
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Recycling Medea is a stirring and disturbing film about today’s child-murdering society. “To me, the Medea film”, explains Theodorakis, “is a Greek work of art.” A true statement. In the spirit of its Greek origins, it tells – in grand style – of our origins. It is a work about us all.
Junge Welt, 27 June 2013
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Asteris Kutulas’ filmic poem Recycling Medea conjures up consistent, bold and occasionally cryptic associations, narrated from the perspective of lost children. Playing off and with top-class and exquisitely emotional opera sequences, the direction splices the Greek tragedy (431 BC), verse by metaphorical verse, with the current Greek tragedy and its lost generations.
To this end, director Kutulas cuts the antique myth, through impressive camera and editing, into a clash of ‘stage ballet’ and ‘street ballet’, thus creating an entirely different collage and opera-ballet-documentary-art-film …
At the same time, Kutulas’ film not only documents the play, but also focuses on the repeated, occasionally baffling disruptions of Medea’s dance-based tragedy by streets filled with hooded and masked youths, armed police forces and burning cars. The time of innocence is gone. With its multi-layered approach, Recycling Medea illuminates times of resistance, of guilt, of lacking perspectives. Text and image fragments (inspired by Lars von Trier, Pasolini, Carlos Saura, Theo Angelopoulus et. al.) open up new room for thought. The children are dead, the country dying, a gasmask-wearing Theodorakis appears among the protesters; Medea stares up at the bright balcony seats, a masked protester straight at the camera. Art and reality start to mesh.
The epic narrative is underscored by stylistic elements, including the film’s typography: a cartoon font softens the harsh reality of Euripides’ quotes. On a different layer and level, the startling juxtaposition of 15-year-old blond “artlessness” – Bella’s internal monologue – appropriates authentic quotes from Anne Frank’s 1943/44 diary, thus adding contours to a striking yellow press beauty to embody a vision without a future …
With its timeless and encompassing approach, Kutulas’ melancholic epic Recycling Medea subliminally catapults fundamental questions of a parent generation’s guilt all the way into the present.
Karin Schmidt-Feister, 18 January 2014
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Provoking opus …
Based on the Medea choreography by Renato Zanella, head of the Athens National Ballet, Asteris Kutulas achieves a harsh contrast: fleet-footed art meets the spontaneous choreography of the streets in the guise of young Greek demonstrators in Athens who tackle a phalanx of law enforcement to vent anger about their stolen future. The visually captivating film leaves plenty of space for the sheer incredible presence and expressiveness of dancer and prima ballerina Maria Kousouni performing the elegiac revenge of a jilted Medea, while the charged and emotional ballet music was composed by Mikis Theodorakis, based on his opera Medea by Euripides …
Plärrer, January 2014
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Asteris Kutulas transforms the crisis gripping his native country into a poetic film that splices adolescent street fights with the ancient legend of child-murderess Medea. Medea twists and dances to Mikis Theodorakis’ music. The mythical figure finds herself caught in a desperate struggle, grappling with the decision to kill her children to punish her unfaithful husband. Cut. Tear gas wafts through the centre of Athens. Young people flinging fire bombs. Police behind shields. Cut. A young, elfish girl on a green meadow. Lost innocence incarnate. Just like the cradle of European civilisation lost its innocence in the ongoing crisis. The current situation in Greece inspired Asteris Kutulas’ imagery … and the result of these experiences is no feature film per se, no ballet film or political flick. Rather, it is a poetic collage, a 76-minute video clip …
Joachim Fahrun, 18 January 2014
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… Another film that deserves mention is Asteris Kutulas’ film ”Recycling Medea”. It is a fascinating motion picture adventure, a cinematic canvas that mixes ballet dancing with opera music composed by the iconic Mikis Theodorakis, narration, images of youth protests in the streets of Athens and a character inspired by Anne Frank. Visually stunning and masterfully choreographed by Renato Zanella, the dancing vividly conveys an array of feelings ranging from love, hate, revenge and ultimately Media’s denial of the unbearable crimes she has committed. –
Hollywood Greek Reporter, 24 June 2015
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… The film shows the Medea ballet set to Mikis Theodorakis’ music and Renato Zanella’s choreography, cut with fight scenes between police and protestors in today’s Greece. The Anne Frank story, too, joins the narrative. The State Academic Orchestra and the St Petersburg Choir play and sing. Theodorakis conducts. It is an overwhelming, a ravishing music. Kutulas shows the dancers applying make-up as well as their choreographies, he reveals how he works with the ensemble and explains his intentions. The music carries the film, propels it into virtual highs and lows. As do, it should be said, the shoulders of prima ballerina Maria Kousouni. Shoulders of incredible strength, militancy and vulnerability; shoulders of great radiance. They symbolise the Medea legend’s dire abyss – and the sheer might passionate women can add to the scales. Something that simply needs to be seen.
Kopkas Tagebuch, Movie Star, 19 January 2014
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Based on the intensely dramatic and exceptionally emphatic opera Medea by composer Mikis Theodorakis as well as Renato Zanelli’s no less expressive ballet choreography, danced by exceptional prima ballerina Maria Kousouni, Asteris Kutulas spins surprising links between the choreographies of stage and street where, on Athens’ Syndagma Square, police and young protesters find themselves embroiled in bitter battle.
Greek News Online, May 26th 2014
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Passion, sexual betrayal, conflict, revenge, and infanticide are boiler plate themes for opera. The eminent Greek composer and political activist Mikis Theodorakis premiered his opera Medea in 1991 at Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao, Spain. Theodorakis, now 95 years old and still a radical, emphasizes the humanity of the myth, particularly with the themes of passion, dignity and loss. The last aria of the opera is, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful ever composed. In an earlier 1969 iteration as a song, Theodorakis had called it “The Oracle.”
„Recycling Medea“ is a passionate and poetic cinematic essay. It is a striking visual collage integrating scenes of protest marches, Theodorakis in a gas mask and stomping police boots in the burning streets of modern Athens with the passionate choreography of Renato Zanella. The exquisite prima ballerina Maria Kousouni portrays Medea. She manages to amaze the spectator with her sublime movements and the reach of her limbs. Her movements are immensely more expressive than the libretto. They represent a Medea we pity and fear – a woman and mother who is more than vengeful, she is tender, frightened, loving, heartbroken, mad. The music and the dance combine to both reassure and haunt my dreams. The contradictions in mood are stunning. Mother and society have betrayed the children. They have killed their future, and perhaps ours.
Spyros Orfanos, 7 August 2020
New York University Postdoc Blog
Recycling Medea | A film by Asteris Kutulas | Music by Mikis Theodorakis | Choreography by Renato Zanella | With Maria Kousouni as Medea