Bacchae, The (2002) - Synopsis

Based on Euripides' immortal drama of the same name, THE BACCHAE (Bahk-ai') is an intense and contemporary retelling of the classic myth in which Dionysus, son of Zeus, seeks vengeance on Thebes, the city of his birth and site of his mortal mother Semele's cruel and horrible death. Leading his army of women into the surrounding mountain glens, Dionysus casts a spell on the city's females, who abandon their husbands and fathers in order to engage in forbidden revels. When the young and highly repressive king Pentheus discovers that his own mother Agave has given herself over to this upstart god of wine and erotic joy, he declares a state of war, despite the very stern warnings of Cadmus, the former king and the famed prophet Teiresias. Incredibly, Dionysus' unarmed women defeat Pentheus' formidable royal army. When the king meets the god in a face-to-face confrontation, the result takes on a horrible logic all its own. Hitting the voyeuristically inclined young king where it hurts, Dionysus lures him into the glens where, at the very site Semele's destruction, he is seduced into disguising himself as a woman in order to watch the forbidden orgies unabated. Unable to resist the sexual lure of the Maenads' holy eroticism, Pentheus attempts to join in only to be torn, literally limb from limb, by the frenzied Bacchae. The following morning, Cadmus discovers the terrible aftermath: the still-raving Agave dancing through the woods, her dead son's head clutched in her hands. Now joined by Teiresias, the former king forces his daughter back to her senses and the horrifying realization that not only is her son dead, but that Agave herself was "amongst his butchers."