The Weeping Meadow

  The Weeping Meadow The first thing that strikes one about Greek director Theodoros Angelopoulos’ new film, Weeping Meadow (part one of a trilogy), is its beautiful cinematography and its patience: the sets are vast and the pace of the drama, for those used to Hollywood, almost geological. Angelopoulos’ imagery is fluid – floods and watery whites, sheets waving in the wind, tears and blood. The protagonists in this drama, supposedly one of the director’s more human films, are like islands constantly threatened by the flood of historical tragedy that surrounds them and indeedr uns through their veins. The film begins in 1919 with a group of refugees from Odessa walking across a barren plain following their expulsion from the Black Sea. The refugees arrive on foot, well-dressed bourgeois mocked by the starkness of their new surroundings. The drama unfolds showing the tragic events of the next 30 years through the eyes of Helen (Alexandra Aidini) and her lover, the musician Alexis (Nikos Poursanidis): the arrival of 2million refugees from Asia Minor in 1923, the rise of fascism, the German occupation and the national schism that culminated in the civil war of 1945-49 are all reflected in the couple’s changing relationship.

The buildings in the film are temporary: shacks surrounded by muddy streets, a theatre whose veiled boxes are filled with refugees, a disused factory used by musicians and a patrician’s house that literally becomes an island when the waters of a nearby river flood the entire village. Trains run through the set, often separating a character from the nearby village or group. The possibility of permanence is constantly undermined by the course of events. The notion of groups runs through the film: a mass of refugees, a band of musicians, a flotilla of mourners on boats and the police, armies and guards – these choral set pieces filmed in one long shot after another, constantly prod the viewer to look at the film not as the representation of reality, but as the poetic rendering of historic events. There are many moments in the film when the couple – with or without their children - inhabit a space that is thoroughly symbolic, as if they had wandered into a gloomy landscape painting. This operatic space is movingly evoked (not least by Eleni Karaindrou’s music) but it places the characters in a lonely no-mans land from which from very early on it is clear they will not escape. The Weeping Meadow The classical cinematography (Andreas Sinanos) and patient camera movement places each character in stark separation from their social and geographical surroundings and only allows physical contact in the shadow of death and loss. This allegorical rendering of protagonists will not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with Angelopoulos’ previous films (such as Ulysses Gaze, Eternity and a Day, Landscape in the Mist) though in an interview he gave recently to Sky Radio, the director states that “this time, the spot-light shines on people …who are not vehicles for ideology but personalities with specific individual histories.” In the Weeping Meadow, “The individual is stronger than his or her historical background, without meaning that historical events don’t come in to play – the opposite in fact.” This may be evident to the director, but to this viewer this “poetic testimony of the last century” remains a difficult film. Its protagonists often seem to behave as archetypes, sometimes with the lyrical force of ancient Greek tragedy (the film quotes from the Thebian Cycle) but too often their tragic plight seems to envelope their humanity in melodramatic floods of tears. Visually, however, the film remains a breathtaking work of epic scope, a historical document that tackles the darker side of the human condition in bold,beautiful strokes to create unexpected and original imagery that sheds light on the realities of the present. Leonidas Liambey

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