Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Angelopoulos is dead and Greece is dying
Following on from the appallingly violent and banal death of filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos, above is a clip from Ulysses’ Gaze (1995), in which Thanasis Vengos proclaims to Harvey Keitel the demise of Greece.
Below is another extract from the interview Angelopoulos gave to Andrew Horton, published in The Last Modernist: The films of Theo Angelopoulos, in which Angelopoulos explains his thinking behind the scene. Also, read here Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw’s tribute to Angelopoulos; and go to Diary of a Screenwriter for a transcript of a speech Angelopoulos gave at Essex University in 2001 on being awarded an honorary doctorate, in which he details his relationship with cinema and with Greece.
Horton: You have the taxi driver tell Harvey Keitel when they stop in the snow in Albania that “we Greeks are a dying race”. Those are strong words. Would you care to comment on them?
Angelopoulos: The lines the taxi driver speaks are taken from poems of George Seferis. And there is more that is not in the film, including “What do our souls seek journeying on rotten, sea-borne timbers from harbour to harbour/Shifting broken stones, inhaling the pine's coolness with less ease each day.”
Yes, these are strong words for Greeks, “we are a dying race”. But they mean something more. I was at a conference in Paris once, and a young Greek woman who was working on her PhD at the Sorbonne came up to me. And she said, “Mr Angelopoulos, we Greeks who are living abroad in Europe are in a great identity crisis. We are almost ashamed at times to say we are Greek because of all the problems that are going on with the Albanians, with the economy and the Common Market, the Skopje Question. We are not sure what to think anymore about being Greek”.
Well, her comments made me remember how different it was for me and my generation when I arrived in Paris in 1960. Whenever I said, “I'm a Greek” back then, or my friends said, “We are Greek”, it was something wonderful, something to be proud of, something with meaning. This young Greek woman said, “We are like a people who are dying”. She was, of course, echoing Seferis in her life, and yes, so is the taxi driver in my film.