By adapting Ovid’s most famous work, Christophe Honore delivers an enchanting metaphor for the ever-changing nature of man and his need to give birth to and surrender to myths.
Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is the Roman poet’s magnum opus, enumerating all the Greek and Roman myths that include an element of transformation. In fifteen books and 12,000 verses, the poet sought to compose a kind of history of the world from its beginnings to his day. If in Ovid’s time, the element of myth and the faith in the enchantment human passions awakened in the gods was still thriving, Honore’s film makes the combination of the ancient and the modern seem natural and relevant, and as a work occupies its own seductive and captivating time-space.
It’s a ghostly world, which doesn’t shun the present. Jupiter kidnaps Europa, but not disguised as a bull, but rather as a truck driver. Narcissus speeds by on his skateboard and Tiresias is a bi-racial doctor. But the universe ‘Metamorphoses’ explores, as a triptych of encounters Europa has with Jupiter, Bacchus and Orpheus, relies only upon the will of the audience to believe in these ancient myths and to agree that something of their essence survives to this day.
Honore seems to believe this passionately and communicates it through this tender, beautiful film in a way that leaves you no choice but to accept it for yourself. Even if the narration is fragmented and non-linear, in a film which is made up of many smaller stories, it is easy to follow thanks to the direction which is as fluid and light as the heroes that are transformed before us.
‘Meaning’ may be absent in this lyrical cinematic poem, but Honore’s film isn’t lacking in ideas about man’s need to believe in myths concerned with the weaknesses of the spirit and the mind, regardless of his era. Just like the gods once upon a time, man has the ability to transform himself, to refuse social and moral norms and to flow freely, constructing new personal or communal myths along the way.