Sunday, 19 June 2011

Kleopatra Rota & Eleni Prokopiou in "Mikres Afrodites" [1963 Greece]

Nikos Koundouros' film "Mikres Afrodites" [Eng. Title: Young Aphrodites] is a magnificent example of cinema with magical realism. Since I knew nothing about this fine director, watching the film drew frequent comparisons to eastern masters of cinema like Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray, but more closely Pier Paolo Pasolini. I'm lost for words to describe the film's beauty, but boy am I glad to have bumped into this gem!

Inspired by an ancient play by Longus (Daphnis and Chloe), which is based on an even ancient Theocritan myth - Daphnis and Aphrodite, the screenplay is creatively interpreted and directed to make this a truly timeless classic. It is not a strict interpretation of the play itself though - the film is much darker, and examines not only coming-of-age, but also male-female dynamics in a very modern way. Koundouros narrates two parallel stories within the film whose characters interact during its course, each drawing on the other's experiences - while one story is about adolescent love, the other is about adult desires. It is a very visual film, sensual and tastefully done, and the mesmerising soundtrack and Mediterranean locale transport us to a different world altogether - one which we'll wish to stay for a while longer even after the film finishes.

Set around 200 BC, a group of nomadic shepherds arrive at a fishing village in search of water and new pastures. Men in the village are out at sea, and the place inhabited only by women at the time. Young Skymnos is intrigued by local girl Chloe - about his own age, and shepherd Tsakalos is fascinated with an already married Arta. The film captures their mating rituals through sheer visual poetry that transcend cultures - it is 'human'.

I was able to locate a DVD vendor in Greece, and even if this has not been digitally remastered, it is definitely well worth it. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

I've made two compilations, improving on the DVD quality, but these pale in comparison to experiencing the full film - in fact I even feel I may have vandalised a work of art by chopping off bits and pieces. Buy the DVD if you can - this is one film you'd love to watch again and again, and well worth the investment.

Compilation 1: Kleopatra Rota
This is of young Chloe getting to know Skymnos, a shepherd boy about her own age, who'd accompanied his nomadic group from up the hills. She isn't exactly swept off her feet by what she sees - he reeks of sheep and is rough with anyone except his pet fox, but takes pity and offers him a bowl of water. Shymnos also finds Chloe fascinating and for a while is too proud to admit he likes her. But he soon falls in love with her, and is willing to do anything to please. We see two young people come-of-age in front of our eyes - it is nostalgic, and endearing. If some feel prudish about watching something that's only natural and a beautiful part of everyone's life, I can only feel sorry for them. Chloe is played by the adorable Kleopatra Rota.

Kleopatra Rota in Mikres Afrodites

Scene Guide:
  • Chloe offers a thirsty Skymnos her bowl of water.
  • After being told off for being unkind to her geese, Skymnos makes peace by offering her a dead stork he discovered by the sea.
  • When Chloe sees him watching her with interest, she tells him that in order to impress a woman, a man must offer to make some fire. He tells her they treated women differently from where he came from. Another older shepherd boy is also interested in Chloe, and watches her from a distance.
  • Skymnos tries to subdue Chloe but she is as strong as he. She also couldn't help pushing him away even though she likes him.
  • Skymnos tries to impress Chloe by making a fire for her. She tells him she still isn't convinced he loves her. He asks her what else he needs to do to prove his love. She asks him to climb a nearby mountain alone at night. When he conveys his apprehensions about being at the mountain where dangerous animals prowl, she tells him that's precisely why she wants him to go there. She also announces the reward for his efforts - she would let him do whatever he wants with her.

Compilation 2: Eleni Prokopiou and Kleopatra Rota
Here we follow the second story - that of beautiful Arta and shepherd Tsakalos, before they meet Chloe and Skymnos towards the end. Arta is played by the sexy Eleni Prokopiou.

Eleni Prokopiou and Kleopatra Rota in Mikres Afrodites

Scene Guide:
  • Tsakalos turns his charms on lonely and beautiful Arta, already married to a fisherman who's at sea. Arta tries vainly to push him away. No nudity but very sensual scene.
  • He tells Arta he could have taken her by force any time, but wants her to accept him willingly instead.
  • Arta earns for companionship, but also wants to be virtuous - she wants him to choose between marrying and taking her with him, or leave her alone so she could remain faithful to her husband who she claims loves her dearly.
  • When the rains arrive, it is time for Tsakalos and the other shepherds to leave. The fishermen will also return from sea. With time running out, Arta finally offers herself to Tsakalos, but while making love, they're watched by a curious Skymnos and Chloe.
  • Skymnos promises Chloe that he will not leave with the other shepherds. She somehow feels he won't be able to stay in the village and love her forever. As it happens, despite Skymnos hiding among the rocks, his men come looking, and take him with them by force (not shown).
  • The older shepherd boy succeeds in hiding from his men, and makes his advance on Chloe, now that the way is clear. Chloe resists, but is overwhelmed by the much stronger boy.
  • Heartbreaking scene - Skymnos manages to escape from his men and comes looking for Chloe, only to find her with his rival, and apparently enjoying it too.


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