Premium Member Jeff Bernstein Posted January 17 Premium Member Share Posted January 17 Oedipus the play by Sophocles begins : Οἰδίπους : "ὦ τέκνα, . . . 1. Oedipus the king steps into view of some citizens of the city he rules, Thebes. Oedipus the king begins with addressing the people : "ὦ τέκνα" : "O children". Oedipus is the father. Oedipus is the ruler—the right measure. Oedipus is Reason and Control. Oedipus is the State. Oedipus is Right. Oedipus the man is confident, sure, reasonable; practical and trustworthy; helpful and caring; utterly responsible. Oedipus is certain on his feet. In approximately sixty minutes his entire Self collapses from the highest height to the lowest low. Oedipus the character is a surrogate for the audience. Thus, what a wild ride for spectators to experience the continuum of Oedipus! Isn't it funny that Oedipus the character is entirely, ingenuously with his whole heart, committed to tracking down, uncovering, and curing the Problem of the State, and spends the duration of the play employing Logic and Reason to follow the tracks of the Situation to its Origin, only to discover that He is the problem? Now, isn't that funny? (e.g., "First to go, last to know.") The tone of Oedipus the play, as devised by its playwright Sophocles, is a continuous mix of the dead-serious and the perversely funny : the sickest mix—considering the Situation. The play's tone is a fusion of colossal contrasts. This fusion is simultaneous at all times in the narrative. The play is not now-and-then funny, then now-and-then serious : the play is both, simultaneously and continuously. Here, we must remember to hear the word "funny" as "the most perverse humour possible"; and the word "serious" as "the most serious Situation imaginable". Mixing with virtuosity—fusing like Brundlefly—these two hyper-contrasts, these Opposing Poles of Perspective, the Serious and the Funny, is the mark of a first-rate narrative. The two-tone tone of Oedipus the play is matched, for example, by Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. This virtuoso tone is what Phantom Thread is after. 1b. In fact : Oedipus the play has for its continuous tone a triple mix of contrasting-yet-homologous elements : (1) the dead-serious, (2) the perversely funny, and (3) the Most Horrifying, Sickly, David-Lynch-Strangely-Surreal, Stomach-Queasy Shockingness. This triple mix might make Oedipus the play, arguably, the greatest technical feat ever realized by a storyteller. Oedipus the play has the most complex tone of any story ever written. 1c. How close does Phantom Thread come to this triple tone? Let's look. 2. The Perverse in Oedipus Οἰδίπους ὦ τέκνα, Κάδμου τοῦ πάλαι νέα τροφή, τίνας ποθ᾽ ἕδρας τάσδε μοι θοάζετε ἱκτηρίοις κλάδοισιν ἐξεστεμμένοι; πόλις δ᾽ ὁμοῦ μὲν θυμιαμάτων γέμει, ὁμοῦ δὲ παιάνων τε καὶ στεναγμάτων: ἁγὼ δικαιῶν μὴ παρ᾽ ἀγγέλων, τέκνα, ἄλλων ἀκούειν αὐτὸς ὧδ᾽ ἐλήλυθα, ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος. O children, freshest raised of long ago Cadmus, why have you gathered here, and sit before me, holding appealing olive-branches crowned with leaves? Why is the city air heavy with incense, why is the air heavy with hymns and sighs? Judging it right to come to you myself, o children, and not hear second-hand of things, I am here, a name well-known to all, Oedipus. Thus the first 8 lines of the play. By the end of line 14, the State, Religion, and Self-confidence are all already fatally undermined by Sophocles. 3. ἁγὼ δικαιῶν μὴ παρ᾽ ἀγγέλων, τέκνα, ἄλλων ἀκούειν αὐτὸς ὧδ᾽ ἐλήλυθα, ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος. Judging it right to come to you myself, o children, and not hear second-hand of things, I am here, a name well-known to all, Oedipus. Line 7 : "ἐλήλυθα" ("to come to"). Oedipus enters the play at an elevated pitch, at the height of stature. Falling downhill is the only direction he follows from here. The continuum of the narrative as devised by Sophocles is one long surreal fall. Reason is applied until Reason reveals the Absurdity of the Origin. But, just here, in his first words, Oedipus is at his highest position, the lofty starting-point of his long fall. Here, at the first, the speech is on the grand scale : Oedipus the play opens akin to the sound of the Big Bang; and progresses to a mostly empty darkness. Here, already, is perversity : "ἐλήλυθα". The grand-scale effect that Sophocles engineers in lines 6–8 (a broad, open-mouthed exclamation belted out with supreme confidence) includes, as a component, the ululatory use of six "L" sounds. "ἐλήλυθα" evokes "ἀλαλητῷ" in the use of the double "L". The ululant ἀλαλητῷ (from ἀλαλητός) is a war-cry or "shout of victory" (dictionary definition (dd)) and is "usually a triumphant outcry" (dd) in the Iliad (e.g. XII.138). It's one of those words in Ancient Greek that imply an improvisatory phonemic stream, such as "ἒ ἔ, παπαῖ παπαῖ" (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1114); or "ὀτοτοῖ" (Aga., 1076), which appears elsewhere as, for example, "ὀτοτοτοτοτοτοῖ" (Euripides, Trojan Women, 1294). Oedipus stands before the people triumphantly ululative, not realizing he's already lost. Later, Oedipus affirms his total commitment to tracking down the source of the Situation : a pestilence is ravaging the city. A fact is relayed to him : the previous king of Thebes, Laius, was murdered. On this subject Oedipus says (ll. 139–41) : "Whoever killed him might possibly come to me with hands raised in similar violence—so by helping him, surely I am helping myself." but—he himself—Oedipus—killed "him". Oedipus is the culprit Oedipus is after! Eventually, the man who raises up his hands against him is—himself!In "helping", Oedipus is actively, zealously, and unwittingly, destroying himself. Example : later, his fingers tear out his eyeballs from their sockets. So is it an understatement to describe his encouraging pronouncement of faith as spectacularly wrong? 4. State vs. Religion : both spectacularly wrong Oedipus speaks his opening words, then invites a Priest of Zeus to respond on behalf of the people. The Priest speaks (ll. 14–57). By line 58, the Situation has been exposed as Ridiculous. The Priest of Zeus has no idea what Zeus is doing. (e.g. "Whoa, let's say you have no idea and leave it there. No idea. Zip, none.") Funny? The Priest appeals to Oedipus to save the city, unaware that Oedipus is the problem. Worse, the Priest speaks confidently of the Gods—he even parades his erudition with a cringeworthy joke. The Priest of Zeus is a silly oblivious idiot, yet a supremely confident man. State vs. Religion : examples : (3) Oedipus invites the people to "rise" (ἵστασθε 143), but the people remain, until the Priest bids them "rise" (ἱστώμεσθα 147). (2) The Priest endeavours to educate Oedipus before the people. (1) The Priest delivers to Oedipus a monumental opening speech of 33 lines—then Oedipus responds by ignoring him completely. By line 58, State, Religion, and Self are caught in pestilent darkness. By line 87, all three actors in Oedipus the play so far are "wrong about everything"! Creon, the most trusted friend of Oedipus the king, returns from a fact-gathering trip to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and his very first word is spectacularly wrong. Oedipus to Creon : "What is the Word of the prophetic god?" (86) Creon : "Good." (87) In retrospect—considering an eyeless Oedipus exiled; his incestuous mother dead; his daughters traumatised; his sons dissolving into chaos and long war—this prediction is inaccurate. Creon adds : "I say heavy suffering, if things chance to turn out well, may lead to some good." (87–8) 5. The Priest's cringeworthy joke "πλουτίζεται" (30). In the midst of his monumental speech, the Priest of Zeus remarks : "Hades grows rich in corpses . . . !" πλουτίζεται : "make wealthy, enrich" (dd). Πλούτων : "Pluto", another name for Hades, God of the Underworld. πλουτίζεται / Πλούτων. The Priest of Zeus makes a stupid pun. Why? Because he is a moron. There is also a crucial technical reason for this dumb joke. Sophocles foregrounds a joke, one so obvious it's unmissable, and thereby sets a benchmark of humour for the Spectator. Since nothing else in Oedipus rises to that dubious level of obviousness, the Spectator might completely miss the (perverse) humour, and remain in the depths of a profound seriousness. This dumb joke is a key element that Sophocles uses to bring the triple-fold tone into being. 6. Undermining Reason Oedipus is the most intelligent person in Thebes, the man who solved the riddle of the Sphinx. Sophocles conveys Oedipus' Reason reasonably. Example : Sophocles has Oedipus speak in "either-or" sentences (e.g. 11; 89–90) to convey that Oedipus sees many sides of Situations, and condenses his Thought succinctly and well.But about himself Oedipus knows nothing! Oedipus : "οἳ δ᾽ εἰσὶ ποῦ γῆς?" / "Where on earth is the murderer?" (108) 7. Plainly Perverse "μίασμα χώρας" (97) : "miasma in the land". Earlier, the Priest addresses Oedipus as "ὦ κρατύνων Οἰδίπους χώρας ἐμῆς" ("O Oedipus, king of my land" 14). Creon returns, and delivers the oracular news : because of the murder of the king, there is a miasma in the land. Since Oedipus is equated with the State from the start (Oedipus = χώρας), obviously the Oracle is speaking obviously : miasma = Oedipus. But nobody hears it this way. Funnier, Creon says : ἄνωγεν ἡμᾶς Φοῖβος ἐμφανῶς ἄναξ μίασμα χώρας . . . (96–7) "Apollo Seer commands us plainly (ἐμφανῶς) . . ." 8. prophetic ashes (μαντείᾳ σποδῷ 21) As Oedipus progresses, Truth continually clarifies until the Spectator sees it clearly, and Oedipus blinds himself. Sophocles engineers this "shimmering slow-focusing knowledge" effect through technics, including word-repetition; double-meanings; strangely-apt metaphors. Key themes recur in the manner of alarm bells—(e.g. eyes, feet)—apparently unheard by the characters. Yet, as Oedipus progresses, a suspicion ever-increases that somehow, somewhere inside him, he already knows his Fate, but only intuitively, so cannot yet recognize the truth inside his own words. (With his every word, one part of himself is speaking to another part of himself : a call from afar to afar.) 9. Seeing The first 150 lines include many references to seeing (e.g. 15, 22, 45, 105). Example : ὦναξ Ἄπολλον, εἰ γὰρ ἐν τύχῃ γέ τῳ σωτῆρι βαίη λαμπρὸς ὥσπερ ὄμμα τι ! (80–1) Oedipus : "Apollo Healer! May He come as saviour, brilliant as an open eye!" Not the most apt metaphor in retrospect? 10. Line 100. Creon : "ἀνδρηλατοῦντας . . ." Oedipus asks Creon : Did the Oracle reveal the cure to end the pestilence? Creon's first word in answer: "ἀνδρηλατοῦντας . . ." : "to banish from house and home" (dd).Oedipus has now heard his Fate. With another 1,400 lines to go! 11. ὀλωλότος Creon says : "Λαΐου δ᾽ ὀλωλότος οὐδεὶς ἀρωγὸς ἐν κακοῖς ἐγίγνετο." (126–7) "After Laius' ὀλωλότος, no one helped us when the pestilence came." ὀλωλότος = death / murder. ὀλωλότος (126) ἀλαλητῷ (shout of victory) ἐλήλυθα (7) 12. Oedipus welcomes Creon's return from Delphi, saying : τάχ᾽ εἰσόμεσθα: ξύμμετρος γὰρ ὡς κλύειν. (84) Oedipus : "We shall soon know (what's going on) : he's within fit distance for hearing." (dd) ξύμμετρος = "within fit distance" = "he's close enough to hear him speak the truth of things." The perverse humour here recalls the last lines of Double Indemnity : the truth is actually : "closer than that." 13. Sick-footed Just as with the repetitive theme of "seeing", so : feet (e.g. 50, 128). The Origin of the Situation involves Oedipus' feet—indeed, his name means "swollen foot" (dd). 14. Repetition Oedipus the play is mystic and incantatory early on. Techniques used by Sophocles to maintain the mystic mode include : hypnotic repetition of words or themes. Examples : πόλις δ᾽ ὁμοῦ μὲν θυμιαμάτων γέμει,ὁμοῦ δὲ παιάνων τε καὶ στεναγμάτων (4–5)φθίνουσα μὲν κάλυξιν ἐγκάρποις χθονός,φθίνουσα δ᾽ ἀγέλαις βουνόμοις . . . (25–6)γνωτὰ κοὐκ ἄγνωτά (58) τίν᾽ ἡμὶν ἥκεις τοῦ θεοῦ φήμην φέρων (86) ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ τοῦτ᾽ ἀποσκεδῶ μύσος (138) πρός τε Παλλάδος διπλοῖς : to the two temples of Athena (20) 15. What is the message? Oedipus : "ἔστιν δὲ ποῖον τοὔπος?" (89) Oedipus : "What is the message?" (of the Oracle). Or : What is the Word? What is the Truth? τοὔπος is virtually a homophone of τόπος ("place"). So Oedipus is also saying (unwittingly) : "What is the place?" The place—where his Reason hasn't arrived at yet—is "τριπλαῖς ἁμαξιτοῖς" (716) : "where three ways meet". The place where the murder took place. The murder he committed. The murder of his father. ἁμαξιτοῖς : ways, paths, roads, pathways. In retrospect, isn't the following metaphor strange? Oedipus, to the people : "ἀλλ᾽ ἴστε πολλὰ μέν με δακρύσαντα δή, πολλὰς δ᾽ ὁδοὺς ἐλθόντα φροντίδος πλάνοις" (66–7) "Know that I have shed many tears, and have wandered many ὁδοὺς of Thought."ὁδοὺς : ways, paths, roads, pathways. 16. Oedipus and his birth mother are separated at his birth. Later, they meet, marry, and have children together, all unwittingly (apparently). How disturbing, that Nature didn't engineer-in safeguards against such behaviour! 17. Oedipus is Mind. His first line is a question. His Mindfulness is referenced at 6, 58, 67, 73, 132, etc. The Priest of Zeus remarks that Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx "οὐδ᾽ ἐκδιδαχθείς"—"without any instruction from us". (38) In Oedipus, questioning leads straightaway to cataclysm. 18. The Best Intentions Grandly before the people of the city Oedipus says : τῶνδε γὰρ πλέον φέρω τὸ πένθος ἢ καὶ τῆς ἐμῆς ψυχῆς πέρι (93–4) "I care more for all these people than for my own life."Later, he will be forced to worry about himself. Funny? Serious? Horrible? Phantom Thread : Part I of Film THE COMIC Alma enters the film and promptly trips up. "I simply don't have time for confrontations" : i.e. "I don't have time for life" : a perverse paradox recalling paradox-play in Sophocles and Henry James. The way "my old so-and-so" Cyril slides into her breakfast chair recalls the ghost of an actress in a 1930s movie (4.52–5); her immemorial grace returns at the fashion show (43.54–9). "I make dresses" : the amusingness of the naive-sounding experienced-one (e.g. Alice saying "Thank you" at Ziegler's party). "Confirmed bachelor . . . incurable" : perfectly amusing dialogue for, say, Cary Grant or Robert Montgomery or Clark Gable in the 1930s. Blue is "bit serious", then Cyril promptly walks in wearing blue. (Throughout the film Lesley Manville has the 1930s look all over her shape.) "She told me she wants to be buried in a dress that you make" : a nexus moment—the marriage of comedy and death : an absurd joke, a "foregrounding" joke, like the Priest of Zeus' πλουτίζεται ! Breakfast is a locus of the light-hearted throughout PT. Woman wants the man sexually, "I'm working" (41.39)—a comic moment in any narrative. The comedy swiftly continues as "the other woman" sweeps in : Cyril with tea. The fashion show involves a comedy of degree : 'tis a very proper meltdown : "Let me do it. Let me do it. . . . Let me do it, let me do it. Damn it. You're no good to me just standing there, Pippa! I need your hands on this. . . . Just go. Go, go! I'm sorry." End of Part I of PT. NAZI GERMANY "Do you look very much like her?" "I don't know, I think so." (17.44) Does this exchange suggest Alma's family was lost to the Nazis? Alma doesn't seem to like very much any type of control. Woodcock invading her personal space to remove her lipstick, or to work on fashion, generates some anxiety for her (e.g. the CU at 24.22–47). The depersonalization, being reduced to measurements, a physical object occupying a space, doesn't seem to appeal to Alma very much. "Just jump up on the box for me" : the man could be ordering just anybody (24.12). Alma also doesn't find appealing her personality being forced down to zero; nor the sadistic monster Nazi overtones of "You have no breasts. . . . My job to give you some, if I choose to." (39.52) Concentration camp wear? Note the face : light and dark. THE CREEPY "ashes . . . fallen to pieces." μαντείᾳ σποδῷ ! (21.26) This shot marries silent film (tint) to Clockwork Orange : as directed by Murnau (11.10–19). (9.18) Cyril flicking the napkin hard (like Jack sweeping junk into the lens in Shining) in a "get away" motion and signal. It is also aggressive : evocative of pent-up energy : finely-channelled energy. Cyril : the "I". Reason. "Cyril is right. Cyril is always right." This quick "flick" movement is recalled in Woodcock's head gesture here : "And where's the dress now?" Small talk is large intrusion. Woodcock's quick head gesture returns at "I think I don't like the fabric so much" (35.02). Patterns, resonances. "And who's this lovely creature making the house smell so nice?" (27.18) : Silence of the Lambs motif. "My little carnivore" (33.16) Also evokes a fairy-tale motif : e.g. "Then l'll huff . . . and l'll puff . . . and l'll blow your house in!" Bullying and dissent : "Yeah, you didn't say that" : correcting him (29.21). "but you do now" : correcting her (39.32)—which recalls Grady in Shining : "Did you know that?" : same off-hand power-games.30:32–40 : "You have the ideal shape" : Fassbinder : the dolly-zoom. (An intrinsic tool in Fassbinder's technics.) Ominous. (The dolly-zoom returns in "Alma, will you marry me?"—but now includes Woodcock as well). Fairy-tale element : Alma is nature caught in the castle like Danny in the Overlook. The fairy tale of the orphan child who works her will among bullies who think themselves gods. EYE The mad eye of the artist (a 1920s German-feel : Caligari etc). Oedipus : "like a bright eye". The summit. "like a bright eye". See Psycho (1960). "That's your room" : similar in affect to Norman Bates and the "b-b-b-b-bathroom" (33.50). "I very much hope that she saw the dress tonight. Don't you?" : he sounds here uncannily like Hal-9000 (10.29).MAGIC CIRCLE MOMENT MOTHERWedding dress : equated at the first with Mother (her second marriage /cf. Παλλάδος διπλοῖς). Marriage = Mother. Keeping Cyril close keeps mother close. Women work for him and help him create. The art produced is for women to wear. His sister runs the business. All women judge him. FAMOUS LAST WORDS "It's comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don't find that spooky at all." (10.40) SERIOUS "No one can stand as long as I can" (34.49) has an epic sense, Homeric : the sense of "endure". FASHION SHOW Judgment Day. End of Part I of Phantom Thread. Conclusion : Thankfully, PTA is reaching far. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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