Jeremy McGaffey

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					Jeremy McGaffey WL Assignment 2B

Antigone Revisited:
An Adaptation for the 20th Century Statement of Intent:
For a complete understanding of Sophocles' Antigone, we must begin by looking at its historical context. Greek theater had very little in common with what we call 'theater' today. It was, first of all, a religious experience. To attend a performance of one of these plays was an act of worship, not an entertainment or an intellectual pastime. Yet even this aspect of the Greek theater is impossible for us to grasp, for the religion in question was something utterly alien to the pious ceremonies of modern religion. We can, however, approach a sense of its artistic aspect by analogy with an art of our own century: the cinema. While these plays are now treated solemnly as 'classics,' their original setting was not the intellectualized world of today's best theater. Thinking of this art as 'high culture' is misleading, for at the time they were much closer to what we would call 'pop culture.' In some ways, the audience for the latest Hollywood blockbuster approaches the spirit of Greek theater much more closely than do students solemnly analyzing these plays as 'literature.' For this reason, an adaptation of Antigone into film is an appropriate vehicle for presenting timeless themes like the dangers of pridefulness to today's audience. One could argue that even plays written yesterday are less contemporary than Antigone. Antigone is the first heroine in literature, a woman who wars against a male power structure, a woman braver than any of the men who scorn her. This is not only a feminist play but a radical one as well, making rebellion against authority appear seductive and noble. If we think of Antigone as something merely ancient, we make the same error as the Nazi censors who let Jean Anouilh's French adaptation of the play be published, mistaking one of the most powerful texts of the Resistance for something harmlessly academic. Adapting the story to a modern setting, using a widely accessible medium such as film, seems to be the most efficient way to reintroduce the still relevant ideas contained in the original to today's audience.



From the point of view of a pedestrian, we travel down a packed street, through crowds of people rushing to get to their destinations, then turning off the busy main streets, into a visibly lower-class residential neighborhood, past a graffiti-covered sign that reads THEBES. This could be any major city, but stoops on the houses suggest Harlem or the Bronx. Sitting on a stoop at the corner of OIKOS St. and POLIS Blvd. is the CHORUS-a middle-aged black man, with beard and glasses, rolling a cigarette. He looks up from his work and begins to speak to the camera. CHORUS Pride… it's dangerous, and the streets punish it. The hardest part is that we have competing visions of it, and we're all too busy working against those we call too prideful to see it in ourselves. We all want to run things, and think we could do it better than the next guy, but how many of us will admit it? It's everywhere around us, especially here in the city. Let me tell you, it gets bad around here. The old man Oedipus, head of the Oikos gang, used to run things in Thebes. Everyone called him "King" and he kept the peace. Things went smoothly under his control. Now Oedipus was fool enough to get with a girl from a smaller rival gang, the Polis, and it showed clear enough in his kids. They could almost be called cursed.



Standing over OEDIPUS' deathbed, ETEOCLES and POLYNICES, both young men, listen to their father's proclamation, unheard by us, and clasp hands solemnly as the CHORUS continues. CHORUS [voice-over] Anyways, when the old man died, his sons Polynices and Eteocles were supposed to run the gang, back and forth, and watch over their sisters Antigone and Ismene, but when Polynices' turn came, Eteocles wouldn't step down.



Back in the street, we see POLYNICES driving in a car with several other young men his age. As they turn onto Oikos St. two of the men reach out of the windows, pointing guns at the sky and fire, and the car takes off out of sight. Further down the street, two teenagers, one an Oiko, the other a Poli get into a fistfight. CHORUS [voice-over]

So Polynices left Thebes and came back with a gang of Polis, and there were all these young thugs running around Thebes showing their colors and throwing their pieces in the air like fools.



A line of thugs and miscreants, the Polis (all Latino), led by POLYNICES, descends upon a gathering of the Oikos (all Black), led by ETEOCLES, who are not unprepared. Both sides pull out guns and the shooting begins. The Polis, who are slightly outnumbered, lose quickly. CHORUS [voice-over] Then one night it started to get bloody. Eventually, it was full out war in the street. The Oikos crew managed to keep their turf, though. Finally it came down to the two brothers, each dying by the hand of the other. We zoom in on the brothers, staring at each other, eyes aflame with hatred, guns aimed. As the CHORUS finishes, they both fire and the sound echoes as they simultaneously hit the ground.



We return to the CHORUS, sitting on the stoop, smoking his cigarette. CHORUS Now enter Creon, brother to old Oedipus' wife, who steps in to run the underground of Thebes. The difference between the two gangs is clearer than ever before under his rule. The Oikos are about family before everything else, but Creon, a Poli, thinks the laws of the street come first. And things sure have changed. After the war, he made a decree that Eteocles, who defended Thebes, would be buried in the family graveyard, but Polynices, the traitor, would be left in the park to rot. The cops don't come around here much, so the body is still there. I can smell it from here. And Creon keeps his people on watch to make sure no one touches it. Now Antigone… like her father, she's a headstrong girl-doesn't take crap from anybody. And when she heard Creon's decision, she set out to put him in his place. Polynices is family, and she'll bury him no matter what—in the park if she has to. Antigone will die for disobeying her uncle and she knows it, but it doesn't faze her. For her, family comes first and she will not be swayed… Now you may be wondering how I know all this. I know because it is my job to know—I am the Chorus. I speak for the streets, for the streets have no voice.

One scene later after Antigone and Ismene's conversation. 7. EXT. OIKOS ST. - LATE NIGHT

A car screams down the street and comes to an abrupt halt in front of one of the nicer houses in the neighborhood of Thebes. Three Latino thugs, Polis, pull a teenage girl out of the car kicking and screaming—ANTIGONE, a black girl of sixteen, who refuses to be manhandled. Finally, they manage to get her inside the house.



We follow the men carrying ANTIGONE into a large well-furnished house, somewhat surprising considering the neighborhood. Disrupted from his work, CREON, a tall, gaunt Latino man bursts into the room, furious. CREON What is this?! FIRST THUG [stammering] She was… she was… trying to bury him, jefe! CREON [anger building] Explain yourself now or you'll regret coming here at this hour.



A small, run-down park, in need of some renovation. The only lights are some flickering streetlights in the distance. The three Polis sit on some swings passing a blunt between them. We see this scene exactly as the FIRST THUG describes it to CREON. FIRST THUG (voice-over) See what had happened was, we were in the park guarding the body. The boys and me think it's crazy but lo que tu quieras, boss, you know how we do. It was a quiet night so we got a little jodido, then this fog rolled up on us off the river or something. But I wasn't about to let anybody get by us this time. I fired a shot into the fog cos I thought I heard something, and the ho screamed. Lucky she didn't get capped, jefe. We dragged her out all covered in dirt and brought her straight to you.



We return to the room, CREON glaring at ANTIGONE with rage in his eyes as the three Polis edge to the door. CREON Is this true? ANTIGONE [looking him in the eyes and smiling faintly] All of it. FIRST THUG See, man? You need to keep that girl in check. My job's terminado—I'm ghost. The Polis slip out of the door as CREON grabs ANTIGONE by the hair and drags her into another room, both screaming.

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