Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Antigoni Amanitou from Nikos Koundouros' "1922" [Greece 1978]

In "1922", Nikos Koundouros recreates events from the little known Greek genocide towards the end of the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 where, within the single province of Anatolia alone (present day Turkey), about a third of a million civilian Greeks were systematically eliminated through pogroms, officially sanctioned death marches and starvation. This crime against humanity was conducted under the guise of a Turkey - successor state to the Ottoman Empire asserting its credentials in the region.

I've had this DVD for a while, but postponed writing about it because it came without English subtitles, and I've been looking for separate subtitles for it since. But I feel it is the right moment to post this film even with my present diminished ability to absorb its profoundness. To explain why, I need to digress from the blog's topic for a moment.

Current events in Greece have been upsetting to say the least. Here we have the European cradle of civilisation being told how to conduct its own affairs by northern neighbours who owe so much of their own success to ideas and thoughts that emanated here. And following their instructions apparently is the only way that the people who invented the very idea of 'Europe' could even stay within its union. I'm no economist, but judging by my own affairs, it's pretty evident that these so-called austerity measures will if anything only worsen its economy and make it more indebted in the medium term. Just as we can't expect 'neighbourly' hard-nosed economies to show any gratitude to a people for everything they've borrowed over millennia including coinage itself, we can't prevent ambitious neighbours from riding roughshod whenever they feel their time has come. Greece had been unduly trampled upon during the course of its recent history, it is again today. And Nikos Koundouros' "1922" can be seen allegorically to describe Greece's predicament.

About the film:
We follow, through the main characters' experiences the horror of the genocide, as Turkish troops and Muslim mercenaries round up the Greek and mainly non-muslim population living in Anatolia - a region they claim, to indulge in indiscriminate slaughter, rape and lead the surviving ones to their death in the desert. The film is relentless in the manner in which it drives you down, you can plainly see that there is no hope for the doomed group. The only relief on their way is from the Red Cross, too late for many to be of any help - as they only end up collecting and documenting carcasses left in the death march trail. Even if the film doesn't depict violent scenes, a lot of the horror is implied through what we see before they happen, and its aftermath. Dialogues peter out as the film approaches its end, and what we see are some truly heart-rending scenes which capture the utter despair of the victims and the total ambivalence of their captors, who while not being outright barbaric, show what it means to be enforcers of a nation's fascist agenda.

The director succeeds magnificently in narrating a story using assorted events, turning his audience into a bystander bearing witness to the unfolding tragedy - everything we see is at eye level. Contrasting scenes are also allowed to overlap to capture the irony behind all this, and Koundouros studiously attempts to stay away from propaganda. He succeeds there too. The cinematography is rich and the magnificent landscape is made to contrast with events happening on the ground. The soundtrack is magical, enhancing the drama in each scene, even through its silent moments. The performances by all the main characters are very good, and some are exceptionally heart-felt. On many an occasion, characters break the fourth wall and talk to the audience, it's a shame I cannot write anything about it for obvious reasons. But despite me able to savour only about half of what the film intended, it is amply evident that this is another superlative gem from a Greek master whose filmography I've so thoroughly come to enjoy. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

ebay DVD Link

Compilation: Antigoni Amanitou and others
Some scenes do not contain nudity and the ones that do aren't the least erotic. They are disturbing nevertheless, so view at your own discretion.

Antigoni Amanitou in Nikos Koundouros' greek classic 1922

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity but I felt it necessary to show the context of this film, as Turkish troops summon residents to come outside, only to massacre the entire family afterwards.
  • A young Greek soldier enters a home to find its entire occupants dead.
  • A passing shot of what looks like a humiliated priest and his family.
  • Lucia is separated from her husband and taken turns by soldiers to be raped. Lucia is played by Antigoni Amanitou. I've also inserted in between a monologue by the character played by Eleonora Stathopoulou as I think it is an important scene, and would be grateful if someone who knows Greek could translate it for us.
  • After killing the rapist, a hysterical Lucia cuts off her hair, presumably wanting to make herself less desirable.


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