We are in a contemporary museum. At closing time a visitor hides herself inside. She becomes obsessed with understanding the ancient Greek myth on display: the fall of the house of Atreus—a family steeped in generations of ill deeds, guilt, and revenge. These wrongs have been exacerbated by Agamemnon giving up his own daughter, Iphigenia, as a human blood-sacrifice to the gods. The visitor obsessively re-watches a film that has been showing in the museum: it details maidservants performing a human sacrifice, while gossiping about a mad creature, Elektra, a daughter of the house, who has been driven crazy by the deeds done to her father. Only one of the women present comes to the defense of the much abused Elektra; her punishment for such compassion is to become the sacrificial victim. This myth seems so resonant to the visitor that the film comes alive to her. The visitor, someone also in mourning, becomes Elektra
Elektra invokes the memory of her father, Agamemnon. She recalls how, having returned from the war, he was murdered in his bath by his wife and her mother, Klytemnestra, aided by her lover, Aegisth. Elektra begs her father to show himself and promises, invoking her long-lost brother, Orest, and her sister, Chrysothemis, to avenge his death by making blood sacrifices. Agamemnon appears to her: murder victim, father, and demi-god.
Chrysothemis tells Elektra that Klytemnestra and Aegisth plan to lock Elektra up. She begs her to resist the urge of revenge: only then, she says, will they be allowed out of this “prison” of a home. Chrysothemis craves a normal life with a lover and children. Elektra, at first intrigued by her sister’s vision of a normal life, ultimately remains unmoved. Klytemnestra and her entourage are heard approaching. Chrysothemis passes on the gossip that Klytemnestra has been having nightmares about the return of her son, Orest, whowas banished in infancy. Klytemnestra and her fawning servants enter; Elektra confronts her with a calm, cruel irony. Klytemnestra dismisses her attendants, who mutter about Elektra’s deviousness, and stays alone with her daughter. Her sleep at nights has been racked with nightmares. Klytemnestra graphically describes her dreams, which feature images of putrid carcasses and maggots, and a torch whose flickering mocks her. Blood must flow, she says, before these dreams can end. Elektra begins to taunt her mother with talk of an appropriate ritual sacrifice, to be enacted by a stranger, but mysteriously one who also comes from the house. Elektra terrifies Klytemnestra with increasingly lurid threats: she will be pursued through the bedroom, bathroom, stairways, and cellars of the house by one seeking bloody vengeance. Just as Elektra reaches a climax, a message is brought to Klytemnestra. As she takes in this fresh news, a look of evil triumph engulfs her. She sweeps out as Chrysothemis bursts in with the news: Orest is dead. Two servants hasten to take this “good news” to Aegisth.
Elektra at first refuses to accept Orest’s death but tells Chrysothemis that it is then their duty to avenge his death using the very ax with which Agamemnon was murdered. Chrysothemis, terrified, rushes out. Elektra, once again alone, is startled by a stranger who has broken in. It is Orest in disguise. Cautious at first, he claims that he and a companion saw Orest killed and have been charged with bearing the information to Queen Klytemnestra. When Elektra tells him that she is of the same blood as Agamemnon and Orest, the siblings recognize each other. She tells him how she has sacrificed her sexuality to the cause of vengeance, and Orest swears vengeance to do the deed for her. Orest’s mysterious old companion warns the two of them to be prudent and takes the ritual ax from Elektra.
The maids comment on the frightening events. Aegisth returns home, to be confronted by Elektra, who now taunts him and pretends to have “changed” in her understanding. He enters the house and is also immediately murdered by Orest. Elektra and Chrysothemis celebrate the murders in frenzied excitement. Elektra is left alone, and the terrible burden caused by the death of her father takes its toll.