Cast: Haru Kim, Jongman Kim
Official Selection, 2021 BAMcinemaFest
In Aeschylus’ Greek tragedy Agamemnon, the title character is murdered by his wife, Clytaemnestra, after he returns home from the war. In Ougie Pak’s (Sunrise/Sunset, SDAFF ‘19) CLYTAEMNESTRA, a South Korean theater troupe, mostly women, gather in a Greek Airbnb to perform an adaptation of Aeschylus’ play. In between rehearsals, movement exercises, and tours of ancient ruins, they ruminate on the motivations of Clytamnestra’s act: It’s about self-expression, revenge, the uniquely Korean feeling “han,” or justice, they suggest.
The play’s famous director is a man who rules his mostly female theater troupe through fear, humiliation, and patronizing condescension. The object of his disdain is Hye Bin, a shy, soft spoken young woman in flowy dresses, who cannot muster the loud theatrics the director demands. In the end, the more he shouts, “Louder! More energy!” the quieter—and more resolute—Hye Bin’s performance.
“As soon as we see ego, we stop seeing the story,” the director lectures to Hye Bin, chastising her contempt. “We only see actors.” CLYTAEMNESTRA, however, turns this aphorism inside out, through its sustained attention to the ego’s dark desires, bubbling up in recurring dreams of murder. A minimalist indie set against the gleaming Grecian shoreline, CLYTAEMNESTRA is an exploration of the director-as-king in the era of #MeToo, and the insidious abuses an actress endures to be crowned star.