Angelopoulos’ View

In memoriam: Theodoros (Theo) Angelopoulos (1935-2012)

  • Theo AngelopulosTheo Angelopulos was undoubtedly the best known representative of Greek cinema and one of the most eminent directors of the second half of the twentieth century. He was characterized by a particular mix between history and aesthetics and distance from the camera’s dynamic engagement. A flashback to history, which is present in films such as Alexander the Great (O Megalexsandros, 1980), Ulysses’ Gaze (To vlemma tou Odyssea, 1995) or Eternity and a Day (Mia aioniotita kai mia mera, 1998) seems to have been inherited from Homer, creating an epic structure with the help of a visual superstructure which is stylized consistently in the way religious frescoes are organized. The connection of different eras and decades is a common point. The unity of dramatic occurrence recalls Akira Kurosawa and the tendency that every little thing should be illustrated with as few movie frames as possible… an atmosphere which develops in terms of colour with no colour, the pale areas and symbolism necessarily developed as if they were elements that directly and indirectly substantiate the epic style.

    The entire work of Angelopoulos can probably be divided into two specific periods: a) the period of history which is in the foreground and takes the role of a protagonist… b) the period of history which can be found in the background with the characters dealing willingly or unwillingly with its destructive consequences. Maybe all Theo Angelopoulos’ films, regardless of genre or style, may seem like a dream, movies with lots of atmosphere and enigmatic landscapes within the story. I still have the sequences in my mind from Ulysses’ Gaze when Odysseus awakens in Ithaca in the present and begins his journey through the Balkans…
    Ulysses’ Gaze (To vlemma tou Odyssea), dir. Theo Angelopulos
    The protagonist of the film is a Greek filmmaker who returns to Greece, after a considerable time spent in the USA. He is looking for himself, and cannot shoot movies any more. His journey continues through Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and then we return to Vukovar (Croatia) and Sarajevo. During the making of the film, Angelopoulos declared “This film is autobiographical. I am making it because the Balkans is the mother of European civilization and Europe understands us less and less every day… My film is Balkanic, because all of us who live in these regions share the common affliction of many conflicts within a century, so we have to understand each other much better and must co-operate. I think that these conflicts are meaningless and that all of us who live in the Balkans have an obligation to learn how to live together because this is our land from which we have nowhere to go.”

    Angelopoulos’ odyssey, his pride and intelligence was crushed by scooter during the filming of the new film The Other Sea (L’altro mare), proving to us that we are too small before the laws of the universe regardless of how heroic a life we live.

    Jeton Budima