His films often explore politics, particularly recent Greek history, but also the human condition eloquently which in a way is quite reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni, and what drew me to his films in the first place. It has been a pleasure discovering (and re-discovering) some of his works since, and I'm glad to have finally had a chance to write something about this exceptional director, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year in a freak accident. His art is of course immortal, inspiring future film makers and audiences alike, and an exploration of cinema is simply incomplete without his films.
I shall start his filmography from a slightly lesser known but nevertheless accomplished drama, "O Melissokomos" [Eng. Title: The Beekeeper]. The second in Angelopoulos' Trilogy of Silence, it is a journey into emptiness, and despair. Each of the films in this trilogy is magnificent and poetic, even though it was the final of the trilogy ("Topio stin Omichli" - "Landscape in the Mist") that collected the most awards. The trilogy must be visited in their order, but make sure you have a box of tissues handy by the time you get to the unabashedly emotional final film. Angelopoulos has a trademark style of his own - his signature scenes are meticulously timed long takes, with great attention to their relevance to the characterisation and screenplay.
It is a momentous day for middle-aged Spyros - his daughter's getting married, and is moving out to start her new life. He too has handed in his resignation at the school where he teaches, and has also decided to separate from his wife of many years. He will henceforth pursue his hobby of bee-keeping, a hitherto family profession, and embarks on his charted course with his van full of bees, chasing spring blossoms. On the way, a young girl hitches a ride in his van whom he drops off at the nearest junction, but she keeps bumping into him again at various stages of his journey - a distraction he'd have preferred not to have. Her youth and carefree abandon couldn't be a greater contrast to his present frame of mind, and the more she throws herself at him, the more he pushes her away. But she nevertheless manages to get into his mind, and will cause Spyros to do things he'd never normally think of. Their journey together will come to an end at a disused cinema, where lot will be revealed about what it means to be in Spyros' shoes...
To say this is one of the most beautiful films you'll ever see is clichéd, and possibly an understatement. It does everything that good cinema can in the most simple terms, and more. The direction, screenplay, cinematography, editing, and acting (this is Marcello Mastroianni in top form) shine throughout the film. Angelopoulos works magic again with a tight-knit team who know exactly what he wants, and deliver in no small measure in the case of Eleni Karaindrou's hauntingly melancholic soundtrack. Needless to say, this gem of a film is Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link
(I couldn't locate the box-set that includes the complete Trilogy of Silence - will update this when I come across one)
Compilation: Nadia Mourouzi
- When the girl asks Spyros if she could stay with him for the night, he reluctantly agrees. She wastes no time in making herself quite comfortable at his expense, even bringing in a lover for the night. An uncomfortable Spyros is aptly played by one of Europe's superstars Marcello Mastroianni, and the girl by Greek actress and Angelopoulos regular, Nadia Mourouzi.
- A pass of play at a disused cinema of a friend where they take shelter - the girl is practically nude throughout their stay, and the undercurrent in the later part of this long scene is not only sexual, but also psychological - Spyros 'becomes' interested in making love to her only when she pleads him to let her go - nothing about her interested him until he realises she's leaving. Now, does the girl also know that..?