After studying and practicing in Paris,
Theo Angelopoulos (Greece, 1935) went back to Greece and directed
his first films:
Anasparastasi/ Reconstruction (1970), a rural drama from Cain's
"Postman" but under the influence of classical Greek theater and of
Rouch's anthropological documentariat;
and especially the period trilogy begun with
Meres Tu '36/ The Days of '36 (1972), a political drama
set during the Greek dictatorship of the 1930s.
His first major work was the four-hour
O Thiasos/ Travelling Players (1975), set during World War II,
a tragedy of betrayal, at both national and personal levels.
Its foundations are Aeschylus' Oresteia, but there is a lot of Fellini in
the reminiscence of rural life and a lot of Brecht in the didactic presentation
of the plot.
An accordionist on stage introduces a five-part drama,
"Golfo the Shepherdess". Then in the dark we hear a sequence of knocks.
The representation begins.
A group of people (a travelling actor troupe)
emerges out of a train station in a rural Greek village, Aegion.
They slowly walk forward, holding their suitcases.
The narrating voice explained that it is 1952 and they are veterans, returning
there for the first time since 1939.
A truck runs by on advertising a candidate on loudspeakers: an electoral
campaign is underway.
A flashback brings back to the same town in 1939.
Goebbels is about to visit the town.
The actors are eating at a restaurant. The accordionist leads their singing.
The local fascists run in the square singing fascist songs.
Out of the restaurant the actors walk into a hotel.
Then they stand at the balcony, staring at the yard.
They rehearse the drama in the yard.
At night a young lady
wanders in the hotel and hears a couple make love.
She's shocked (the woman is her mother):
she slides down against the wall and cries alone.
The lovers (later called Clytamnestra and Aegisthus)
leave the room making sure nobody sees them.
A soldier (later called Orestes) enters the room and wakes up his mother.
A young woman hugs him and calls him Orestes (he calls
her Golfo, the title of the play).
Later, the soldier and two friends walk on the railway tracks to a wood, where
they recite communist slogans. An old man walks towards them, greeted warmly.
Fascists are walking downstairs carrying an ancient Greek bust.
(The nicknames of the actors are taken from the Oresteia:
the father Agamemnon, the adulterous mother Clytamnestra,
her lover Aegisthus, the avenging daughter Elektra,
the avenging son Orestes, and the other daughter Chrisothemis).
The actors walk on stage, dressed in costumes. There is no audience.
They start dancing at the sound of an accordion,
introducing the story of Tassos and Golfo.
They walk outside and mingle with the curious bystanders.
Knocks like in the beginning, the accordion, the
curtain opens and the play finally begins.
Two people are being chased in the street, beaten, taken into a car.
The actors take down the scenography.
The actors travel in a train wagon with wood benches.
One of them says that the Turks occupied Asia Minor in 1922,
amd he had to flee, a refugee with no roof and no job.
When the actors get off the train, a band is playing in the background1
and marching along the sea.
There are flags at the balconies, and the church bells are ringing.
The actors carrying their luggage walk into the crowd.
Knocks in the dark. Voices of an audience.
The presented dressed in a costune tells the audience that the
Italians have invaded Greece. It is now 1940.
The story of Golfo begins again, but
air-raid sirens go off and the audience flees.
One of the actors enrolls in the army.
His wife laughs at him and he slaps her in the face.
Then she opens her legs but he simply walks away in silence.
A fascist walks into the room and has sex with the woman.
A man in uniform follows a woman into a room.
He attacks her and she resits him then she tells him to undress.
He strips naked (long scene).
She lets him finish and then walks out.
At a balcony the authorities are ready in the fascist
salute and wrapped in the swastick to greet a visitor
The actors take a stroll by the sea. The
electoral campaign tells us that we back to 1952.
Back to war time, the German police walks into a theater and finds the
actors sleeping on the floor: informers have told the Germans that an
Englishman is hiding there.
The actors walk on stage and recite sentences from the
play, one at a time,
some still dressed in their robe (to prove that they
are indeed Greek actors).
One of the actresses bites the ear of one of the
actors (Aegisthus), accusing him of being an informer.
The father is executed by the Germans: Agamennon.
Aegisthus has turned him in to the Germans, probably for something that
Agamennon never did (sheltering the Englishman).
The actors walk in the streets, always well dressed and silent.
A man, escaped from prison, hugs the daughter: he's a
partisan and calls her Electra, and tells her that
Orestes is in the mountains.
A young woman knocks at a door: she gets a bottle from
the owner of the business, and she has to strip and sing for him, while he
masturbates in a rocking chair.
As she walks out, two men shoot the pervert.
She walks into another building and brings the bottle
to the other actors.
The actors are walking, dancing and singing along a
snowy road, their luggage
loaded on mules. They sing about Golfo.
They find two men hanged by a tree in a little square.
Hungry, they surround a chicken in the snow.
Only the actors in the landscape.
German soldiers stop a bus and arrest the passengers,
including the actors.
They take them inside a fort.
The informer begs that he is an informer and cries.
The soldiers grab him, he hides behind a woman.
The Germans are about to shoot them, but the partisans
The following morning the Greeks celebrate the victory
inside the fort: the Germans have left. The partisans arrive riding
horses and are welcomed by the crowd.
Fast forward to the electoral campaign: a bus followed by a crowd,
chanting in favor of a government of national unity.
In the main square of the town, a crowd assembles,
singing and waving both
American and Soviet flags to celebrate the liberation.
The soldiers shoot and the crowd disbands, leaving a
few bodies in the square.
A Scotsman crosses the square playing his bagpipe.
One of the "deads" gets up: he's carrying an
From another street a crowd advances carrying red
flags. They assemble in
the same square, around the dead bodies, facing the
place where the shots came from.
In the middle of the night, the actors are trying to
leave town unseen. Armed groups are moving in, and engage the armed
people who are defending the town (British?). The invaders are repelled by
motorized troops. The actors sneak away.
As they are walking with their luggage on the beach,
the actors are stopped by British soldiers. The coward actor
screams that they are not communists. Once they understand that these
are actors, the British soldiers ask them to perform the drama of Tassos and
Golfo on the beach.
At the end the accordionist intones "Roll Over the Barrel" and everybody
A shot and a British soldier falls dead: communist rebels are attacking again.
Another performance of Golfo's drama, this time in
front of a real audience:
the actors are entertaining the British troops.
An acress sneaks away and visits the headquarters of the rebels.
In the middle of the night,
she leads the rebel to the british barracks.
People come out of a bar dancing at sensual Latin
music, while the communists, unseen, spread through the town.
Inside the building the actors are still perfoming Golfo.
In the last scene of the play, an armed man shoots two of the actors.
The audience gives them a standing ovation, as if it were the final act
of the play, but the soldier was real, and the actors are truly dead.
Orestes has taken his revenge: his mother and the traitor are dead.
The surviving actors stand outside, speechless. Then they
walk slowly to their room, without exchanging a single word (as usual).
Two men, wearing masks, walk into the building.
The camera stays in the hall. We hear the steps, a
bang, more steps, voices.
They kidnapped one of the actresses, the daughter referred to as Elektra.
She is taken to a restaurant, held on the ground and raped by the man who
interrogates her. They want to know about Orestes. She only replies
that he is in the mountains. They dump her out of town, where she wakes up
dirty and wounded. She gets up and starts narrating how in 1944 the British
invaded Greece and the Greeks felt betrayed. When the British and the fascists
shot on the crowds, the communist rebellion began in earnest.
A lenghty scene follows that simply replays the political events of 1944.
Horsemen ride into this scene: communist rebels who surrender.
As the actress who was raped walks back home after an evening with the British
troops, and sees a friend leave, a child walks by reading an episode of Greek
history. The police walk into her room. They look around, sit
on her couch for a while, and then, without saying a word, leave photographs of
the man they are still looking for: the actor who joined the partisans.
A comic Brecht-ian detour allegorically depicts the Greek civil war.
In a restaurant, during the celebrations of new year's eve, right-wing and
left-wing Greeks square off, singing each other's version of
the fact, like in a musical. The right-wing is represented by a group of
well-dressed middle-aged males.
The left-wing is led by a handsome young man and consists of young males
and females. They lead the restaurant's band into a frantic swing number.
The right-wing pulls out a gun. The young man of the left wing shows that
he carries no weapons. The left-wing crowd leaves, and the right-wing crowd
tells the orchestra to play a slow, traditional dance, whose lyrics
hail the national guard. The raped woman is outside, listening to the music.
The accordionist approaches her. She tells him that Orestes has not surredered
yet. In the morning, the right-wing crowd is walking home drunk in the empty
(as usual) streets. As the shot ends, the communist rebellion has been
defeated by the military, with help from the USA (several years have
elapsed as these people were walking down the street to the square).
British troops drive into town triumphantly, displaying the heads of two
communist rebels. Dozens od others are marched prisoners into town.
They are taken to the square and displayed to the
townfolk. One of them is Orestes.
The raped woman, Elektra, waits for a boat. A rebel gets off the boat. He has
agreed to abandon the armed rebellion and has been released.
A military band enters town playing a happy tune. The
former rebel watches without a word. Then he starts narrating how he was
arrested in 1947 and beaten because he didn't want to sign.
He goes into a lengthy description of the tortures. Eventually, he gave up
A wedding by the beach: an American soldier is
marrying a Greek woman, the other daughter (Chrisothemis),
who has a teenage son. The distressed son walks away
dragging the table cloth (and thus all the dishes) behind him.
He is a rebel like his uncle Orestes.
The raped woman (Elektra) and the former rebel visit another,
older communist leader. He speaks cryptic sentences about the revolution (and
The raped woman (Elektra) is summoned in a prison, where she is
notified that her brother (Orestes) is dead. She visits the dead man, and calls
him Tassos. The actors bury the dead man, and clap their hands as
the caretakers dig earth on the coffin.
Fast forward to the electoral campaign. The actors are preparing yet
another performance of the same play. They have hired a new actor, and the raped
woman (Elektra) calls him Orestes: he is her nephew, her sister's rebellious son
who repudiated her mother when she married an American officer.
We hear the knocks again, but this time we also see the man who causes them
with a hammer, as well as the accordionist: we see them backstage, instead
of seeing the dark curtain from the front, as if Theo Angelopoulos wanted to show
The actors are again at the train station. "In the fall of 1939, we
returned to Aegion. We were tired. We hadn't slept for two days."
They stare around. The end.
In a nutshell, the wife of the troupe's leader cheated on him with a fascist.
The betrayed husband enrolled in the army.
Their son Orestes became a leader of the resistance, and was eventually
arrested and killed.
(Is the troop back in Aegion for Orestes' funeral?)
THe action is accompanied by a lot of traditional music, but little dialogue.
Theo Angelopoulos uses long shots that sometime take the viewer from
one subject to another, and sometimes from one era to another,
while crossing a large section of an environment.
Desert landscapes and desert streets abound. History is more a silence than
a clamor. Most scenes are allegories, as is
the ubiquitous presence of the sea.
The characters of the film rarely talk: when they
talk, they go on forever.
Theo Angelopoulos also contrasts the glory of ancient Greece with the pathetic
convulsions of modern Greece, now reduced to a poor country.
Here, Agamennon is a refugee who leads a ragtag troupe of traveling actors
who wander from town to town, hardly the hero of ancient Greece.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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La dittatura dei colonnelli è al centro invece di
I Kynighi/ The Hunters (1977).
O Megalexandros/ Alexander the Great (1980) di nuovo 4 ore fonde sia pure nei modi
più astratti dell'apologo e della metafora ancora una volta mito antico e
Replica in un misero paese montuoso i riti del potere:
discorso antropologico sul bisogno di un capo, analisi politica della strumentalizzazione del ribelle ad opera del regime, dibattito sulle prospettive della sinistra, parabola sul potere, etc.
Un brigante evaso di prigione arrogante ed epilettico
che tiene in ostaggio degli inglesi è considerato un eroe dai compaesani, ma un maestro che tenta
un esperimento di comunismo consensuale si oppone al suo carisma e tenta disperatamente di evitare lo
scontro con l'esercito, mentre alcuni terroristi italiani esasperano gli animi; falliranno tutti, tanto il
comunista, quanto gli anarchici, quanto il tiranno, che, dopo la sconfitta e lo sterminio, sarà
lapidato dagli stessi popolani che avevano creduto in lui.
Theo Angelopoulos si dedico` poi alla trilogia del silenzio.
Taxidi Sta Kithira/ Voyage to Cythera (1984) non ha l'approccio solito
liturgico-mitologico-collettivo-storico, ma è piuttosto una meditazione sull'amore e sulla morte;
dall'epica all'elegia, dalla tragedia collettiva a quella individuale, raccontando la fine di un anziano esule
O Melissokomos/ The Beekeeper (1986) e` la storia di un maestro di scuola (Mastroianni)
isolato dalla famiglia, che a 60 anni può soltanto tornare alle sue
radici, al mestiere di apicultore che fu di suo padre e che lui ha continuato
tutte le primavere: si riappropria dei rituali di quel mestiere antico, e si
mette in viaggio verso il Sud con le sue arnie, accoglie una autostoppista
senza meta, che lo segue in quel viaggio per lo più silenzioso fra i
ricordi del suo passato. L'unica a tentare di comunicare con lui è la
ragazza, che accetta anche di fare l'amore (in un vecchio cinema diroccato del
suo paese natale). Lui è senza futuro, lei senza passato. Il maestro
si rende conto di non aver saputo tramandare la sua vita alla storia, e che
nessuno, per esempio, continuerà la sua opera di
apicultore: apre le arnie e si lascia divorare a morte dalle api.
Quello di Spyro e` un vagabondaggio autobiografico.
Spyro si rende progressivamente conto di non essere nessuno: e` un eterno
passante, che guarda gli altri vivere.
Simbolismo, solitudine dell'uomo davanti alla storia, amaro pessimismo sulle
conseguenze della disgregazione della famiglia.
La voce di un uomo racconta a una bambina la storia dell'ape regina. Spyro
appare stanco, distratto e pensieroso al matrimonio della figlia. Sua moglie
e` altrettanto triste. La figlia e gli invitati sono estasiati alla vista
di un uccellino. Gli sposi partono e Spyro culla un'ultima volta sua figlia.
Il figlio e` irritato con lui per il suo comportamento abulico.
Spyro saluta la moglie, da cui si e` separato. La moglie gli chiede invano
"cosa ti ho fatto?" Lui non ha risposta. Rimasto solo, piange. Poi si dedica
alle sue api. Si aggrega a una colonna di camion che parte per le colline.
Un tempo erano in tanti e l'inizio della stagione era occasione di festa.
Adesso sono rimasti in cinque o sei, anziani e nostalgici. Spyro raccoglie
per strada una ragazza abbandonata dal ragazzo, una teenager scapestrata
che non ha una meta. Spyro, come tutti gli apicultori, deve seguire un
percorso, lungo il quale le api faranno il miele. In ogni posto Spyro depone
le sue arnie per qualche giorno e alloggia in una pensione. La ragazza
gli chiede ospitalita` e lui, praticamente senza parlarle, acconsente.
Lei ne abusa, arrivando a portarsi in camera persino un vecchio amico e
a fare l'amore nel letto di fianco a quello di Spyro.
Durante il suo pellegrinaggio, Spyro ritrova i posti della sua giovinezza.
Va a trovare in manicomio l'amico francese impazzito e lo porta a rivedere
il mare (e` soprattutto malato di ricordi).
Sempre in viaggio con le sue arnie, Spyro perde e ritrova la ragazza.
Va a trovare la moglie e
tenta di convincerlo a seguirlo, ma lei si mette soltanto a piangere e lui
le dice semplicemente addio.
Torna in paese a cercare la ragazza, la trova in un ristorante e sfonda
la vetrina con il camion. La ragazza salta sul camion e se ne va con lui.
Questa volta tenta di baciarla con la forza, ma lei non vuole. La tappa
successiva e` dall'altra figlia, con cui ebbe un diverbio mai sanato: le
chiede perdono. La tappa successiva e` la casa di un tempo, ora abbandonata.
Una delle poche cose che lo fanno sorridere. La ragazza si e` ubriacata.
Gli morde la mano e succhia il sangue. Un vecchio amico gli offre di dormire
sul palcoscenico del vecchio cinema del paese. Su quel palcoscenico la
ragazza gli si offre finalmente e lui la prende con passione. Lei continua
a ripetere "let me go" ma gli si avvinghia. Dopo averla lasciata, torna
al teatro da solo a guardare il palcoscenico. Poi nel prato libera le api
e lascia che lo pungano a morte.
Il tema centrale di
Topio Stin Omichli/ Landscape In The Mist (1988), co-scripted with the Italian poet Tonino Guerra,
an Italian poet who co-wrote the scripts for Antonioni, Fellini and Tarkovsky,
e` un'iniziazione alla vita alla Walkabout (Nicholas Roeg), o, meglio, una versione da incubo di Walkabout.
Una notte due bambini corrono verso la stazione. Il bambino Alexander
chiede alla bambina Voula se ha paura. Un venditore li riconosce: vengono
tutte le sere. Si fermano davanti al treno, si muovono quando e` troppo tardi,
lo guardano partire.
I bambini dormono e la bambina racconta la storia di come nacque il mondo.
La madre viene tutte le sere e li interrompe. I bambini vanno a visitare una
prigione e il bambino Alexander saluta il matto Gabbiano.
Di nuovo alla stazione. Questa volta prendono il treno per la Germania.
Esultano. La bambina scrive al padre che hanno deciso di andarlo a cercare.
Non hanno biglietti. Il conduttore li scarica alla prima stazione. Si fanno
accompagnare dallo zio. Lo zio sa che in realta` non c'e' alcun padre in
Germania, la madre non sa chi sia il padre. La bambina lo sente e si
infuria. Il poliziotto li accompagna alla stazione di polizia. TUtti sono
sorpresi perche' sta nevicando e corrono fuori a guardare la neve. I bambini
ne approfittano per scappare e prendere di nuovo lo stesso treno. Camminano
nella neve. Sposa che scappa dal marito, un trattore perde il cavallo che
stava trainando, e gente cha canta sullo sfondo. I bambini piangono davanti
al cavallo morente mentre la folla dello sposalizio passa sullo sfondo.
Camminano sulla strada in salita. Un commediante da` loro un passaggio sul
suo autobus, In paese incontrano gli altri attori, depressi perche' non
hanno trovato un teatro. Il bambino va a cercare cibo in un ristorante
e il padrone gli offre cibo in cambio di pulire i tavoli. Entra un violinista.
Poi cammina per le strade e incontra soldati che issano la bandiera.
Il commediante Oreste e la bambina lo ritrovano.
I tre camminano per le strade deserte fino a sera tarda. Il commediante
regala al bambino un frammento di pellicola di un paesaggio nella nebbia.
Viaggiano con il commediante. Si fermano su una spiaggia, dove un gruppo di
persone si raccontano memorie e parlano da soli delle loro esperienze di guerra,
come se recitassero su un palcoscenico. Sono gli attori che provano
le loro parti. Ma non riescono a trovare un teatro in cui recitare.
Lasciano gli attori e fanno l'autostop sotto la pioggia.
Il camionista beve e la volenta mentre il bambino dorme.
Camminano sotto la pioggia. La bambina scrive ancora lettere mentali
al padre, fidandosi dei sogni del fratellino che sente il padre vicino.
Di nuovo sul treno. La polizia lo ferma e perlustra i vagoni. I bambini
scendono di corsa e scappano. Ritrovano Oreste, che li carica sulla moto.
Oreste vorrebbe insegnare a Voula a ballare ma la bambina e` glaciale e
scappa piangendo. Incontrano di nuovo gli attori che hanno deciso di vendere
Arrivano in una citta`. Vanno alla stazione ma
la bambina non vuole piu` partire. Dormono in un hotel ma Oreste non riesce
a dormire. La mattina Oreste scopre una mano gigantesca che galleggia
nel mare. Un elicottero la recupera.
Oreste li porta in moto a un popolare luogo di raduno per giovani in
motocicletta alla periferia della citta`.
Li porta poi in un club, ma la bambina si indispettisce di essere ignorata
e si incammina con il fratellino di nuovo lungo la strada deserta.
Oreste li insegue in moto, la bambina finalmente scoppia a piangere fra
le sue braccia.
Di nuovo alla stazione. La bambina ottiene i soldi del biglietto da un
soldato a cui si e` offerta, ma che l'ha rifiutata dopo aver tentannato
Scendono dal treno al confine per evitare le guardie di frontiera. Trovano
una barca e ci salgono sopra, al buio. All'alba non riescono a vedere dove
sono per via di una fitta foschia. La foschia si leva e si rivela il
paesaggio della pellicola di Oreste: un albero alla fine di un prato.
I bambini corrono verso l'albero.
To Meteoro Vima Tou Pelargou/ Suspended Step of the Stork (1991),
co-scripted again with Tonino Guerra, is a poem of loneliness, a political
essay on borders, walls and bridges (made two years after the fall of the
Berlin Wall), and an allegorical tale about forced migration and displacement,
which is the exact opposite of Ulysses' journey and a more real one for
millions of people. Refugees erase their roots, and this film is also about
the psychology of not having a homeland anymore.
The anti-Homeric journey of these people without a homeland becomes a
quest for identity. The Ulysses of this film is a man who doesn't want to
be himself and doesn't want to be found and doesn't want to return home.
He fundamentally doesn't know what home is and where it is.
The town of the refugees is a limbo, a transit place, and possibly a purgatory.
The mood is similar to Tarkovsky's Nostalghia (1982) and some scenes
evoke Antonioni's stories of alienation, but there are also religious overtones,
particularly the last scene in which telephone workers stand on top of poles
like ancient stylites.
This film, that stars
Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau as a (possibly) separated couple,
was released exactly 30 years after Antonioni's La Notte,
in which Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau play a tormented married couple.
The torment simply got bigger and incurable.
The truth is never revealed, but the two options are that they didn't find each
other or found each other but chose to remain separated.
The voiceover of a television reporter, Alexander, talks about the fate of the asylum seekers while the camera is showing helicopters rescuing the corpse of refugees who died in the sea.
A military officer escorts Alexander to the border and raises his leg like a stork over the dividing line: one more step he will either be in another country or... dead.
Then the soldier points at the town where the government is keeping the refugees
who are in transit, waiting for their asylum to be approved.
The TV crew enters the town and starts filming, notably a long train that is
being used as a refugee camp. The camera slides from left to right showing
one by one all the families that live in the cars of the train. Then we hear
their voices as they tell their stories.
Back in his TV studio the reporter/filmmaker watches the footage and is
fascinated by the image of an old man who sells potatoes.
The reporter relates this man to an unsolved disappearance. He approaches the
ex-wife of a famous politician and writer who has been missing for ten years.
She doesn't know anything that isn't already public and thinks that he is dead.
The reporter reads the book that made the politician famous as a writer:
"Despair at the End of the Century".
The reporter clearly thinks that the potato seller is the missing politician
and returns to the market. He is told that the old man is an Albanese refugee.
The reporter spends a night in a dancehall, where a young woman stares at him.
She follows him in his room without saying a word and presumably they have sex.
The reporter visits the old man who is telling a fairy tale to a child about
a kite that saves the children on the last days of the Earth before it falls
into the Sun. The military officer is still guiding the reporter through
the town of immigrants. The old man doesn't really want to talk with the
reporter, but the reporter seems more convinced than ever that this is the
missing politician. The reporter calls the politician's wife and asks her
to join him. In a cafe he witnesses a brawl between refugees: somebody accuses
another one of being a traitor.
The reporter returns to the hut of the old man, and we see that
the young woman is the old man's daughter.
(The fact that the old man has a daughter seems to prove that he is not the missing politician).
The old man tells the reporter that he
works to fix telephone poles, hanging from the top like a bird.
The following day the reporter is at the station waiting for the lady
and sees that one of the refugees, presumably the "traitor", has been hanged
from a crane. Women are screaming as the body is being lowered to the ground
while the lady's train is arriving. The military officer comments that
these refugees have left their country behind only to build new borders.
The crew gets recalled to the capital but the reporter's man accept to
postpone the return until the lady can identify the old man.
It is the holiday season and the crew sings Christmas carols.
The crew picks up the woman and takes her to the refugee camp. She faces
the old man, who is clearly startled to see her (we see the scene into the
screen of the videocamera); but then the woman turns towards the camera and says
that this is not her ex-husband. The old man is puzzled but then walks away.
Next we watch a television special about the politician's disappearance.
The voiceover tells us that he wrote a prophetic pessimistic book that correctly
predicted their times. The TV then shows
his last speech at a plenary session of the country's parliament: he shows up,
pulls out the papers, then puts them back into his pocket and leaves the podium
A crowd gathers at the station to bid farewell to a train of refugees who get
The reporter follows the old man as he walks along the river and then enters
the water to catch fish. The reporter plays a tape of the politician
that the ex-wife gave him (the voice is obviously the same because it is
Mastroianni's). The old man continues his walk, bent into the water, hand
stretched to catch fish.
Having failed the mission, the crew prepares to return to the capital.
In a cafe
the reporter learns that a wedding is about to be celebrated between two
young people who are separated by the river, living in two different countries.
The military officer points at the old man's daughter: she is the bride.
An accordionist plays walking around her. She doesn't move and doesn't speak.
The military officer bids farewell.
The camera pans slowly across a crowd assembled by the river, passing by the
bride in white and the river. Then it stops and we see a crowd appear on the
other side of the river, the groom's party. And the crowd on this side, the
bride's party, starts running too.
We only hear the sounds of the river. We can't hear the voices as the wedding
is celebrated by the two crowds on opposite sides of the river.
The spouses only exchange gestures, not words.
Then shots disperse the crowds, but the two spouses return along to the
respective banks to wave one last time at each other.
The crew has been filming the whole wedding.
The reporter approaches father and daughter and she tells him that she
grew up with her groom. The reporter admits that he is in pain. She admits
that she's in pain too.
The father cries but tells the report that he's happy.
It is now New Year's Day. The reporter walks towards the border alone, the
same place where the film started. And he does what the military officer did:
raises his foot over the dividing line like a stork.
The military officer summons him to the river because the old man has disappeared: he was last seen carrying a suitcase.
The child tells the reporter that the old man walked over the water
to the other side. The old man never finished the fairy tale: how did people
survive the fall into the Sun?
The reporter walks along the river where telephone workers in yellow raincoats are climbing a dozen poles. When they reach the top, they all stop in the
exact same position, like in a ballet.
Eventually, the reporter leaves them and starts walking towards the river that
separates the two countries, and we see the poles reflected in the river
and the reporter staring at the camera, that is revealed to be on the other side.
The three-hour To Vlemma tou Odyssea/ Ulysses' Gaze (1995) is another
Three eras are captured in just the first scene of the film by the simple panning of the camera (1905, 1954, 1994).
This modern Odysseus is a filmmaker who is looking for the original film,
long lost. Returning to Ithaca is not difficult, but what is difficult, in
fact impossible, is to recover the original innocence.
The journey is not so much a nostalgic journey into the past as a meditation
on how humankind's worst instincts destroy the past.
The summary of one century of political upheavals, from the time of the Ottoman
Empire to the repressive dictatorship of Greece and culminating in the civil
war of Yugoslavia,
is a metaphor for the long and arduous journey that
humankind is still embarked on, and the diasporas of the Balkan region are
emblematic of the effects on ordinary people, who seem to be constantly on
Angelopulos is sometimes Proust and sometimes Fellini, sometimes lyrical and
sometimes sardonic. The film boasts
mesmerizing visually and technically virtuoso scenes that condense the
simultaneous passing of different eras in his stream of consciousness.
The film begins with footage from the very first film ever shot in the Balkans.
It was made in 1905 by the brothers Manakis and it is the "first gaze" into
the traditional life of the region.
The man who worked with the Manakis as a young assistant tells (and the screen
shows) how in 1954 the surviving Manakis brother died while photographing a ship.
The camera follows the assistant who walks away from the dead man and towards
a younger man (Harvey Keitel) with a modern port in the background. We are now in the present.
The assistant tells this younger man that some reels of the Manakis film have been lost.
The younger man walks away and sees a sailing boat in the sea: the ship of 1954?
A famous filmmaker (the younger man of the first scene) just arrived in a town of northern Greece to witness the showing of his film,
but religious organizations have pledged to block the film in the theaters
so the film, an English-language film, has to be shown outdoors in the square.
Photographers surround the filmmaker.
The friend who welcomed him tells him that
his film is causing a scandal, and that the
town is split in two.
A line in the film says "How many borders must we cross to reach home?"
This town is the filmmaker's home town that he hasn't visited in 35 years.
Everything has changed and he starts reminiscing how it was.
A procession of women is walking down the street.
The filmmaker tells his companion that he has come for different reason: to
find the lost reels of the 1905 film. Now the filmmaker walks alone in the
streets of his hometown. Soon he finds himself in the middle of a confrontation
between protesters and police officers.
A taxi takes him to the border.
At the border he meets an
elderly woman who wants cross the border into Albania to visit the sister she
hasn't seen in 47 years since the civil war, and he sees a bus dumping a group
of Albanian refugees who are being deported back home.
Then he resumes his journey by taxi through a wasteland buried in snow where
thousands of people are waiting or walking.
After dropping off the elderly woman in the middle of a deserter square,
the car gets stuck in the snow.
The driver starts chatting with the filmmaker, crying that Greece is dying.
The filmmaker finally reaches his destination: the town where his family
used to live after having moved with thousands of refugees on foot
(that we see in vintage footage).
The family opened a movie theater.
He meets with a young woman who works for a museum but she is initially
unfriendly and refuses to answer his questions about the lost reels.
Eventually she reveals the location where some old material has been stored.
She gets off the train but,
as the train starts moving, he starts telling her of a visit to a magical
place, and she has to start running because the train is picking up speed.
He tells her that he tried in vain to photograph the place: the camera wouldn't
show the picture. She is now running as fast as she can.
He pulls her inside and they make love in his compartment
until a border guard demands their passports.
They are taken to the police station and separated. The filmmaker is taken
into a barren room and interrogated by a man wearing a coat and smoking a
cigarette who refers to him as Yannakis, one of the two Manakis brothers,
against whom the government has issued an arrest warrant whereas his brother
Miltos has escaped to Albania. The two brothers are suspects because explosives
were found in their possessino, presumably meant for sabotage missions against
the Bulgarian state and its German ally. We have clearly traveled back to
World War II. The official reads the filmmaker a death sentence.
he is blindfolded and escorted outside in the dark to be shot, but the king
has just granted him exile instead of death. Now the film resumes the story
in the present: the filmmaker leaves the border post and rejoins the woman
who was getting nervous about the lengthy delay.
They cross the border on foot and then board another train.
He starts telling her that in 1905 his family lived in Romania and they heard
rumors about a new French invention, cinema.
The train is going to Romania and she questions why is he going to a place where
the Manakis' reels certainly cannot be because Greece and Romania did not
have diplomatic relations in the 1950s.
He gets off the train and meets... his mother. We are back to his childhood,
even if the camera still shows an adult man. They take the train together.
The mother treats him like a child. They run into a communist demonstration.
They visit relatives for a special occasion and he is sent to play with the other children. A special guest arrives: his father, finally released from a
German concentration camp. So it must be 1945.
They sing because it is New Year's Eve.
Everybody dances but then suddenly they stop because two men wearing coats
walk in. They take away one of the male relatives and wish "Happy 1948" to
the others before walking out. The party resumes but it is soon interrupted
again by a group of communists who come to confiscate a piano, and someone
shouts "Happy 1950". The large extended family takes a group picture and
this time he is really impersonated by a child.
The camera zooms in on the face of the child.
The filmmaker wakes up in a bed, next to the woman. They walk upside and
witness a crane lifting a giant head of Lenin. It is part of a giant statue
that is being loaded on a barge on behalf of a collector. Here he parts way
with the woman. He boards the barge and travels with the dismantled Lenin
statue up the Danube river.
We hear again the voiceover telling the story of when in 1905 the family learned of the invention of cinema.
At night the barge reaches the border with Yugoslavia, where civil war is raging on, and in the morning it continues its slow steady journey up the river.
The camera turns around the giant white head of Lenin.
The filmmaker disembarks and is welcomed by an old friend, a journalist.
The friend takes him immediately in the building where the reels were stored.
The archivist remembers perfectly well receiving the reels from Yannakis and
trying to develop them with all sorts of chemical experiments but to no avail.
Then another archivist borrowed them to give it another try, but the war has
the cities and this archivist has lost touch with the other archivist who has the reels.
The filmmaker and his friend drink to their lost illusions as the television
broadcasts images of the war. The filmmaker is determined to travel to the
war-torn city to rescue the reels, no matter how dangerous.
A woman warns him that the police is looking for him.
He has to row a boat across a river. He reaches a wasteland of bombed
buildings, terrified civilians and graves.
The woman in black who accompanies him is mourning a family member. She mumbles the names of all the armies that fought over this land. At night she hugs and makes love to him.
In the morning he wanders through the streets of the city while the city is being bombed, with fires raging everywhere and civilians running for their lives.
He finally finds the man he is looking for, but the bombing resumes and they
have to run breathless through the city's ruins until they reach the mans'
cinemateque. He tried to develop the three reels in his small laboratory
but he too failed.
The exhausted and delirious filmmaker accuses the poor archivist of having
kept the reels and their "gaze" prisoners.
Then the filmmaker collapses and we hear the archivist's soliloquy in German.
When the filmmaker wakes up, the archivist is gone and his daughter is looking
for him. The filmmaker has his first encounter with the lost reels.
When the archivist comes back, the filmmaker begs him to try again to develop
the ancient reels. Meanwhile, the filmmaker helps a child get some water outside, a dangerous operation that involves using a manhole to cross the street.
The archivist succeeds and shows the filmmaker the developed
reels. They look at them together, laugh and hug, but we don't get to see what
they see. Now the developed reels need to dry. The filmmaker and the
archivist go for a walk, exiting the building from a hole in the wall made by
a bomb. The streets are safe because a thick fog makes
it impossible for snipers to see and aim. The archivist tells him that days
of fog are happy days for the inhabitants of the city. In fact, they pass
by musicians playing Vivaldi's Concerto in D Minor,
by actors performing Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", and by people
dancing to modern music. The daughter invites the filmmaker to dance with her.
She wants to leave that place, he promises that he will come back for her.
Then everybody starts walking towards the river, but trouble lurking behind
the fog. The archivist tells him to wait and runs towards his family.
We hear women screaming, shots, bodies thrown in the river, and finally
a car leaving. The filmmaker has remained hidden in the fog,
powerless to stop the massacre.
He crawls among the corpses, sobbing and moaning: the archivist, his daughter
and everybody else has been killed.
In the last scene he is crying in front of a projector, perhaps after finishing
viewing the lost film, and is thinking about the endless journey of humankind.
Mia Aioniotita Kai Mia Mera/ Eternity and a Day (1998) is basically
a poem about a poet who could not finish a poem that had been left unfinished
by another poet, as in an endless chain of failures that represents the human
condition. It is a tale of desperation, about a man who
is trying to make amend for not having loved by loving the only person he can
love on his last day.
He spends his last day with a stranger, a very young stranger, from a different
country and a different time, whose tragic memories are being built.
The film is a chronicle of the old man's journey towards death.
His last day is a desperate attempt at discovering the meaning of life before
venturing into the ultimate unknown; at understanding
how time passes and how it ends.
His memory fails to comfort him, and so he clings on to a child who might hold
the secret to life.
The whole film feels like a Shakespearian soliloquy, in which the protagonist reflects about
his personal tragedy while mirroring the bigger tragedy of the human condition.
What triggers the soliloquy is the letters that the protagonist's wife (Anna) wrote in the old days, and that the protagonist (Alexander) has just given to his daughter (Katerina) to read. There is some kind of psychological dislocation
going on: technically speaking, it is Katerina who is reading the letters and we hear them in Anna's voice and we hear them while we watch Alexander live his last day.
A number of surreal dream-like scenes add to the mystery of what is going on in his mind: are those scenes mere dreams, are they filtered through his torment, or are they literally so weird because the world around him has become weird?
Note that in the flashbacks of his childhoods we see the protagonist as a
child but in the flashbacks of his marriage we see him as he is now, an old
man in a shappy coat.
Children at a beach house. Not shown, they chat about
grandfather, the ancient city sunk by an earthquake, and what is time.
A child wakes up and walks out on tiptoe, while a woman is laughing in another room. He runs to te beach and goes swimmoing with two childmates.
A woman's voice calls "Alexander"!
An old man, Alexander, in a different room, in a house by the sea, is saying goodbye to
his affectionate helper, Urania. It is his last day before he enters a hospital
where he is condemned to die of a terminal illness.
The room is spare and bare, as opposed to the nice luxuriant room of his childhood.
There are ships in the sea.
The man stares outside, at the apartments across from his.
Someone always answers him by playing the same music that he plays, but he never
found out who she or he is, and why she or he does it. Alexander reasons that
it must be someone who enjoys playing with the unknown.
Addressing Anna, his late wife, Alexander
regrets that he didn't accomplish more than just words (he is a writer).
As he drives his car through the city, he sees foreign children who wipe the
windshields of the cars that stop at traffic lights. When the cops arrive and
chase the children, Alexander saves one by letting him into his car and driving
away. The child doesn't speak Greek. Alexander drops him off and then proceeds
to his daughter's house. Katerina lives in a luxury apartment. He would like to
leave her his dog but without telling her where he's going.
He gives Katerina her mother's letters, that were addressed to him in a
highly poetic style.
Katerina's husband doesn't want animals (so presumably he doesn't leave the
dog with them).
It turns out that Alexander has been working on a poem since his wife died.
It was to be the continuation and completion of a poem left unfinished by
Greece's national poet, Solomos, in the 19th century.
As Katerina starts reading a letter, Alexander starts hearing the voice of the
dead woman. He now is with Anna, who just had the baby Katerina. They are at
the beach house and they are receiving guests for a party.
As we see the scene in the past we hear Anna reading the letter that she wrote
back them. Basically, the letter is telling us what was going on in her
subcnscious while we see how she was acting (apparently normal). Notably,
Alexander is not in the scene. He is merely an observer.
Back to his daugher's elegantly furnished apartment ( emanating the lifestyle
of a young urban professional), Katerina's husband Nikos rudely informs him
that they have sold the beach house and that it will be demolished.
Outside he sees the child again, being brutalized by two gangsters.
Alexander follows their car to a ruined building by the sea. A nice
bus unloads a group of well-dressed people who head into the basement.
Alexander mixes with them. There are
English-speaking people who stare at the children lined up aganst a wall,
choose the ones they want to adopt.
One of the children escapes and in the confusion that ensues Alexander grabs
his little friend and takes him away,
after leaving some money for the gnagsters.
Not a word is said.
They are two hours from the Albanian border.
It turns out the child does speak Greek. Alexander
puts the child on a bus but the child gets off right away,
and Alexander decides to drive the
child back home.
At the border the child tells his the story of how his friend Selim got killed.
Then they walk towards the border.
The fence is littered with corpses of people who tried to climb it,
who are still hanging from it, frozen,
surrounded by snow and fog.
A soldier in a mantle comes out of the gate.
Alexander changes his mind and runs away with the child.
They stop by a river where Alexander gives the child a history lesson about
Solomos, the poet who never finished the poem.
The poet materializes, dressed in period clothes and speaking (or,
better, meditating) in Italian (because that's where he lived in his youth).
The film shifts to a reconstruction of life in Italy in those years, almost
like a historical costume drama.
Now a long meditation begins during which the child is forgotten: everyting is
happening only in Alexander's mind.
They stop in a town where a bride is leading a procession. The
people who follow her are carrying their chairs.
She's dancing at the tune of an accordion.
Everybody else is walking in silence.
Alexader walks into the scene and meets Urania.
It is her son who is getting married.
Alexander wants to leave her the dog.
Alexander departs and the bride and groom resume their dance, and the spectators
are still surprisingly still and silent.
It all feels like a dream.
Staring at the sea from a boardwalk, Alexander starts talking to Anna
and finds himself walking (an old man) on a yacht with young people on holiday.
He talks to his mother, old and sick, while a youthful Anna is dancing with
their young friends. We hear the voice of Anna who writes a letter/diary about
her love for him (what she really thought while she was on that holiday).
The whole group then walks on the beach, everybody dressed in white except him
and his mother. Anna goes with the young ones, while Alexander climbs a cliff.
We slowly learn that he is a famous writer, who has written many books,
and that he neglected his wife for his books.
Back to the boardwalk, he meets his doctor, the doctor who told him that he
Finally Alexander comes back to himself and realizes that the child is missing. He
finds him crying. The child too is haunted by memories. Alexander takes him to
the morgue to visit his dead friend Selim.
The child holds a memorial for Selim in an empty warehouse with the other
children. The children ask Selim about the trip that he has started in the
other world. The child cries in front of a fire.
It is getting dark. Alexander walks along in the street through heavy traffic.
He enters a nursing home. His mother is a patient there.
He remembers another day at the beach. His mother has set the table for lunch
but it starts raining and they have to run away. As usual, in this flashback he
is himself in the present (an old man dressed in his usual clothes).
He runs towards Anna and they hug and kiss in the rain.
Alexander is desperately trying to find a perfect day in his life, a day to
treasure on his last day.
Back to his mother's apartment, she mumbles something about her dowry: she is
gone crazy. He asks her "Why must we rot?"
As he walks out, the child says goodbye. Alexander begs him to stay.
They wander around at night, and run into a mass demonstration by communists.
Three musicians board their bus with their instruments ad start performing
classical music while the bus is moving.
Then the poet, Solomos, boards the bus and starts reciting his poem.
Alexader asks him "How long does tomorrow last?"
The child finally boards a ship to Albania (or, better, sneaks into a crate that is beng loaded on the ship).
Alexander stops at a traffic light and doesn't move when the traffic light turns green. Whe the sun rises, his car is still at the same traffic light.
He suddenly wakes up and drives through the red light.
He walks into an empty building: the beach house, hearing
the voice of Anna writing from the sea, longing for his attention.
The balcony door opens and his mother is rocking the cradle of Katerina while
people dressed in white are singing by the sea.
Anna calls Alexander to dance with her. He tells her that he doesn't want to go
to the hospital. He wants to live tomorrow. And maybe the unknown neighbor
will respond with the same music.
He asks her how long tomorrow lasts. She replies "an eternity and a day".
She leaves him and he remains alone shouting at the waves.
The last sound of the film is the voice of his mother calling him as a child (from the first scene).
The sprawling To Livadi Pou Dakryzei/ The Weeping Meadow (2004) is
an anguished historical tale and a portfolio of evoctive photography.
In order to achieve both, the director has to reimagine the world as it was,
notably though an incredibly detailed reconstruction of village life at the
beginning of the film. Initially what feeds the story is a recursive entangling
of nostalgic oneiric Fellini-an scenes with the
Shakespeare-ian leitmotiv of the betrayed father.
Then history takes over, and the film becomes the typical historical meditation,
contrasting the small dramas of ordinary people with the big dramas of
We are never told what causes the waters to rise and submerge the old village,
but that becomes the ultimate metaphor of the film.
In 1919 a group of well-dressed Greek refugees, expelled from the Ukraine by
the advancing communists, are led by a middle-aged man Spyros and his wife Danae
edge of a river. The invisible narrating voiceover tells their odyssey from
the other side of the river. Then the voice shifts to the leader of the group,
who talks about his two children. The girl, Eleni, is not his: she is now an
orphan. They were told to move to the edge of the river.
Fast forward to the years when Eleni has become a young woman.
The community has built a cute village by the river. The children are excited
when they hear that a boat is taking Eleni back to the village. She is
escorted to Spyros' house. She is weak and melancholy. It turns out she got
pregnant by Spyros' son, with whom she grew up, and went away to give birth
to twin babies, Yorgis and Yannis. Spyros knows nothing.
When she found out, Danae arranged for Eleni to spend a few months with her
sister in the nearby city and then for the twins to be adopted.
The only other person who knows the truth is Spyros' sister.
The boy also knows: he overheard the women talk. He comes at night in secret
to check how Eleni is doing.
Fast forward a few years later. Danae died in an epidemic. Spyros fell in love
with his adopted daughter Eleni and forced her to marry him. They got married
in a church but the moment the priest said "amen" the girl elopes with
Spyros' son. The two flag down the car of the traveling musicians who were
playing at the wedding, Nikos' troupe, and, instead of turning them in, the
musicians give them a ride to the big city.
Nikos gives them a room in the abandoned theater where he camps with his family.
Eleni and the boy find out where the children live and spy on them secretely.
The old senile
Spyros, in the meantime, has not given up: he finds out where they live
and comes to claim his wife. He shouts on the stage of the theater like
a dramatic actor that she's his wife and everybody pities him.
Nikos escorts them to a village where many musicians live.
All the time they fear that Spyros will take his revenge.
Nikos' dream is to emigrate to the USA.
The boy is a gifted accordionist but they live in poverty.
Nikos asks him to travel with his band and he accepts.
There aren't many engagements and the musicians are willing to play anywhere
for a little bit of money.
The first stop is dreadful though: the joint where they were scheduled to
perform has shut down. The musicians are demoralized. On the train back home
the usually good-humored Nikos starts weeing like a child.
Another band leader, Markos, wants to hire the kid as an accordionist for a
tour in America. Nikos is excited but Eleni is not and runs away, while
young revolutionaries are shouting in the street about a national strike.
In the evening she puts on the white dress of the wedding, packs her suitcase,
walks to the beach and dances with a group of men while waiting for the boat
that will take her back to Spyros' village. Spyros' son finds her in time
and swears he would never "betray" her. She obviously wants to stay near her
children. In fact, Eleni and Spyros' son become friends with the family that
adopted their children and are allowed to hang out with Yorgis and Yannis,
who are now old enough to understand. One day Eleni cries when Yorgix calls
Years later the musicians are siding with the leftists who preach illegally
to the workers. Nikos is determined to stage the trade uion dance even though
the usual venues are afraid of the police.
Nikos' band performs for a small crowd. In the middle of the dance Spyros
enters the room and asks to dance with Eleni (technically his wife) while
his son plays the accordion for them. At the end of the dance he collapses
to the floor, dead. The funeral takes place on a raft in the river
with the whole village lined up along the bank of the river, each family in
its own boat. Then all the boats follow the raft into the sea.
When the son and Eleni walk through the streets of the village, nobody is out:
the inhabitants stare at them from the windows of their homes.
Something weird is going on: his father's sheep have been killed and hanged
on the tallest tree. Spyros' ultimate madness.
Now the couple can move into the parental house in the village and definitely
reunite with their children. However, they are surrounded by a hostile
population, as they are guilty of having broken the code of honor.
Eleni is playing with the children when someone starts throwing
stones and breaking the windows of the room.
When the village is flooded, nobody offers a boat to them until the following
The flooded village looks like a little Venice with all those boats in
streets that look like canals.
When they reach higher ground with all the other families, nobody talks to them.
The women dance together around bonfires in a pagan-Christian ritual but
nobody sits around the fire of Spyros' son and Eleni.
When the villagers assemble in their boats in the middle of the river,
Spyros' son and Eleni are left out to watch from a distance.
It is almost as if the village blamed the couple for the flood.
Meanwhile, the revolution has failed and the fascists are arresting the
leftists. Eleni fears for her man, but he is spared.
The traveling musicians appear out of the blue, performing a mournful tune
among white bedsheets hung to dry by the sea. The kid and Eleni hug in front
of them. Someone shoots. Nikos is killed.
The kid (he is never called by his name Alexis) decides to leave with Markos'
band for America. In the middle of the night the police come and arrest Eleni
while the children are sleeping.
She is released only at the end of World War II. The director of the prison,
escorting her out, talks to her in ominous terms about one of her sons
turned soldier and
gives her a letter that her husband sent her four years earlier.
He had enlisted in the army of the USA in order to obtain citizenship and be
able to bring his family to the USA.
The war dispersed her family like nothing previously had:
she collapses after taking a few steps outside the prison.
Taking a train, she returns to her native village.
She is one of the many women who are delivered by the authorities the corpses
of their fathers, sons, lvoers and husbands on a beach.
She is dragged unconscious into a house by two women who used to know her.
They feel bad for how they treated her in the old days.
Eleni lies delirious for a while, obsessed that all those years
she had no paper to write a letter to her children.
When she wakes up, one of the ladies tell her what happened to her sons:
they fought on different sides in the civil war and were both killed.
The old lady takes Eleni to the place where the battle raged between the two
A flashback shows Yannis looking for Yorgis, now a captain in the opposite army,
on hill that separates the two armies. They hug and kiss, but then each
returns to his own side. Yannis was killed in that battle, Yorgis died later
(committed suicide?) in the paternal house and his body still lies there.
The village is now completely submerged by the waters. Eleni takes a boat to
her old house.
While she climbs the steps of the house, we hear the last letter that her
husband wrote to her from the Pacific islands just before his last battle.
She cries over Yorgis' body.
The Dust of Time (2008) is a simpler elegiac film.
Angelopoulos was killed in a traffic accident in january 2012.
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