Mamma Mia! (dir. Phyllida Lloyd, 2008)

I'm hoping to print and bind my thesis two weeks today, so my blog posts may be a bit shorter and less frequent than usual for the next couple of weeks!

The film version of Mamma Mia!, the musical built around ABBA songs, includes a minor detail not in the stage musical. Meryl Streep's character Donna's hotel is supposedly built over the 'fountain of Aphrodite', and anyone who drinks the water will find their true love. At the end of the film, there's a termor in the earth, the mosaic (of dolphins I believe) cracks and water shoots out of the ground, as Donna cries joyfully 'It's Aphrodite!'

You'll probably be unsurprised to hear that, as far as I know, this has no basis in ancient stories about Aphrodite. The island on which Mamma Mia! is set is fictitious, as is the hotel, and there are no stories that I know of concerning a fountain of Aphrodite (if anyone else has heard any, let me know!) (Edited to add: see the comments section below for some interesting examples I hadn't heard of before). The mythical 'birthplace of Aphrodite' is usually placed at Paphos in Cyprus, and the story is that she was born fully grown from the sea from some castrated genitals, so there is some connection with water in her myth, but as far as I know that's it.

Aphrodite is used in the film, of course, because she's the goddess of love and sex, which is pretty much the sole subject of the film (that and gorgeous Greek scenery). It's quite sweet in its own way, and it gives the film a stronger tie to its location (which otherwise really is just scenery porn, Donna's hotel could be anywhere) but I really think everyone should be more worried by the minor earthquake and possible instability of the building...

(Edited to add: I actually like this film, I think I forgot to mention that! Although now I have ABBA songs stuck in my head...)


  1. The film is meant to be set along the lines of classic Greek comedy, hence the Greek chorus etc. And into more detail than I understand, having never studied such things...

    IMDB quote: "An undercurrent of the film is to structure the story as a Greek comedy (like Aristophanes), including patterns of strophe and anti-strophe, a chorus representing the common people, and costumes matched to moods of the characters, including masks and the phallic props typical of Greek comedy."

  2. Interesting... who are the Chorus? Is that what the backing singers are meant to be? I think Greek Choruses usually have a bigger role to play... OK, I'm gonna give up now because I'm really not an expert in Greek comedy! I'm sure someone who reads this blog and knows more about Greek comedy than I do will be able to discuss that in more detail!

    I do remember Aristophanes being somewhat less soppy and romantic though, and I wonder what mood Meryl Streep's dungarees are meant to represent?!

  3. The Chorus are the Greek people. The ones who normally work for her, and take on an alternative role, such as when she is singing 'Mamma Mia' on the roof and they open the trapdoor for her and blow her in. Those ones.

  4. Damn!

    Thx a lot Juliette, now I've got ABBA stuck in my head also!

    It's just as well I left the dvd back in Spain... I don't thing my neighbours here in the dorm would appreciate my singing to it! :p

  5. The Aphrodite thing isn't wholly fanciful. In the Akamas peninsula in nort-western Cyprus there's a natural water feature called the Baths of Aphrodite, and an associated Fontana Amorosa. This is the best online resource I can find about it.

  6. I hadn't heard of that one - looks like a nice place for a holiday!

  7. I haven't heard about Aphrodite's water that one drinks and falls in love, but in Greek tradition and folklore there is a similar legend, according to which, virgin women carry water in their mouth, or in jars for the purposes of the foretelling abilities of 'Kledon'. The water comes from special wells and rivers. This custom takes place at night, and specifically the night before the 24th June, (this day is the day when St John the Baptist is celebrated) every year. I used to keep the custom as a kid, and later, as a youngster. This procedure is called the 'unspoken' water (αμίλητον ύδωρ), because if the girls try to chat with the boys while carrying the water, then the foretelling abilities of Cledon are losing their powers.

    By the way, Kledon is the name of the month June, actually, in Greece, every month takes a nickname and also human features. Kledon is called Kledon because it 'locks' the end of the winter for the farmers. I hope that helps.

    So, in a way, what is mentioned in the film is not totally wrong, it has to do with flirting between boys and girls, but the exact mention of the custom is altered.


  8. lol! I'd forgotten about this... and I'd even commented on it! :p


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