(out of 5)
Theo Angelopoulos follows up The Weeping Meadow with the second of a proposed trilogy focusing on the last century of Greek history, as seen through his impressionistic style. Willem Dafoe plays a filmmaker who is in production on a period piece about his parents, Greek citizens of Russia who were separated just prior to his birth by exile in Siberia and reunited after much heartbreak and difficulty. Irène Jacob is gorgeous as his mother (both in flashbacks and in age makeup in present day), while Michel Piccoli appears as father and Bruno Ganz as Jacob’s companion in the Gulag who comes to be an honorary family member later on. In the present day, Dafoe’s difficulties in making the film are compounded by his volatile relationship with his estranged daughter, the film likely making the connections between the tragedies of a past generation’s communal issues now being expressed through the individual dramas of a disconnected present-day youth. There are, typical of this cinematic poet, terrific moments of visual panache (a staircase littered with broken televisions is not an image you’ll easily forget), but the film hardly makes an emotional impression. The themes are more theoretical and not deeply felt, the awkward casting of international actors who can barely connect over poorly spoken English dialogue making for a shallow experience, while the director’s trademark narrative style, displaying situations with little explanation, this time lacks the enigma of previous works. Sadly, this ended up being the great artist’s final completed feature, as he passed away following his being hit by a car during the filming of the trilogy’s concluding entry.
Theo Angelopoulos Films, Greek Film Center, Hellenic Radio & Television, Multichoice Hellas-Nova, Classic, Lichtmeer Film GmbH, Studio 217, Greek Ministry of Culture, Fonds Eurimages du Conseil de l’Europe, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Film Commission of the Ministry of Culture of Russia, Images du Monde
Directed by Theodoros Angelopoulos
Cinematography by Andreas Sinanos
Produced by Phoebe Economopoulos
Music by Eleni Karaindrou