Salvatore Renna

Panel 3F Transcodifications in/of the Ancient World/2
Session 3 – July 2, 11:00 – 13:00

  “That would be a tragedy”.Yorgos Lanthimos’Cinema Between Metamorphosis and Sacrifice

In the last years, Yorgos Lanthimos has emerged asan incredibly interesting and unusual director. After few short films and few films between 1995 and 2005, with Kynodontas(2009)he won the first prize in Cannes’ section “Un Certain Regard”, while with The Lobster (2015) he revealed himself to a wider public both in Europe and in the USA. After that, The Killing of a Sacred Deer(2017) won the “Prin du Scénario” prize in Cannes and established its director as one of the most profound and enigmatic of its generations, as recently confirmed by TheFavourite(2018).This essay aims at focusing on two of his movies, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The first one portrays a dystopic future in which being without a partner is officially forbidden by the law, in such a way that anyone who cannot find someone to spend his life with is transformed into an animal. The second one is a powerful rewriting of Euripides ‘tragedy Iphigenia in Aulis, whose tragic case is symbolically brought at the heart of an American upper-class family. By analysing these two movies, I will show to what extent they can be considered as peculiar examples of transcodification. In particular, I will show how The Lobsterre-elaborates the idea of metamorphosis, one of the oldest and most powerful artistic devices to question the human being; furthermore, I will discuss the formal and aesthetic strategies through whichin TheKilling of a Sacred Deer the classic tragedy is re-mediated in the cinematic screen. Altogether, I will demonstrate how the power of Lanthimos’ cinema is established on the creative remediation of such ancient themes as metamorphosis, tragedy, miasma and sacrifice, through whichis still possible to tell and question the complexity of human existence.


Salvatore Renna is PhD candidate in comparative literature at Università degli Studi di Bologna and at Università degli Studi dell’Aquila and DAAD Fellow at Freie Universität in Berlin. His PhD project dwells on the reception of ancient myth in the work of Cesare Pavese. Lately he has been Gastforscherat Freie Universität in Berlin and he has been part of the équipe behind the series “Grandi miti greci”, where he has written Poseidone. La forza del profondo(2018) and articles about the reception of Dionysus, Prometheus and Orpheus. His research interests include ancient myth, classical reception, theory of literature, and he has published on Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Heiner Müller and Cormac McCarthy