Euripides and Pedro Almodóvar: Drawing Parallels

Andres Matlock '12
Andres Matlock '12
Over the past 30 years, writer and director Pedro Almodóvar has created some fascinating and controversial films, and he has received worldwide recognition for it. Superficially, Almodóvar has a surprising number of similarities with Greek tragic playwright Euripides. With an Emerson grant and guidance from Margaret Bundy Scott Professor of Comparative Literature Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz, Andres Matlock ’12 will analyze and compare the two.

Having come across Almodóvar in a non-academic setting, Matlock became too enthralled to be called just a “fan” any longer. “I became interested in Almodóvar as a filmmaker two summers ago when I watched all of his films in chronological order,” Matlock said. “I find his method of storytelling intriguing and admire his ability to render most situations humorous.”

On the other hand, Matlock discovered Euripides in a class taught by Professor Rabinowitz. “Of all the authors we read in that class, Euripides interested me the most because of the unconventional nature of his work,” Matlock recalled. The more Matlock read of this classic author, the more similarities he saw between Euripides’ work and that of his favorite contemporary film director, bridging the gap between his academic interests (he is a classical languages major) and the subjects that fascinate him outside the classroom.

As Matlock delved deeper into Euripides’ life, he found that the Greek playwright’s career had many parallels with that of Almodóvar. Both artists became very popular during their lifetimes, but they were also both criticized as to the formal quality of their work. Furthermore, both have been accused of being misogynist due to their controversial portrayals of women.

Matlock’s project focuses on one of these common portrayals: the vengeful feminine figure. The vengeful feminine figure, usually the female protagonist, is the woman who seeks revenge on a corresponding male figure. These vengeance plots are common in the works of both Euripides and Almodóvar, as is seen in the former’s Medea and the latter’s Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980). Matlock is also comparing formal elements of each artist’s work, such as the different methods of characterization that each employs.

Matlock is analyzing three texts from Euripides and three movies from Almodóvar: the Hippolytos, Hekabe, and Medea from Euripides, and Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980), What have I done to deserve this? (1984), and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), that were directed and written by Almodóvar. His secondary sources are divided between classical scholarship and film criticism.

In the end, Matlock hopes to discover the significant differences and similarities between the two artists to make a larger statement about the cultures that simultaneously celebrated and berated them. “By drawing comparisons between these two important artists we can understand more about the cultures that produced them and perhaps understand their often complex and paradoxical statements about sexuality, emotion, and the role of women in society,” Matlock explained.

Matlock is a graduate of University High School in Tucson, Az.

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