Greek director Theo Angelopoulous' portrayal of war-ravaged Greece is framed by the tragic love story that unfolds in The Weeping Meadow. This first saga in his "Trilogy," spanning 1919-1949, opens with a visually stunning... more » scene of refugees from Odessa crossing estuaries that show their haggard reflections in water, as if to double apparent hardship. While establishing Odessa's history in relation to the rise of Mussolini's Facist takeover, The Weeping Meadow unravels a complicated love triangle between Eleni (Alexandra Aidini), an Odessa girl, her lover, an unnamed young man (Nikos Poursadinis), and his lonely father, Spyros (Vassilis Kolovos), who also happens to be Eleni's fiancÚ. The plot often focuses on the young man's talent for accordion playing, and his musical group, headed by the feisty, impassioned fiddler, Nikos (Giorgos Armenis). But when Eleni's lover abandons her for America, she's captured by soldiers, imprisoned, and separated from her children. As in Cinema Paradiso, the human drama unfolding mimics its political settings, so that love quarrels heighten the sense of repression, and vice versa. When civil war breaks out, Eleni's life seems in shambles as well. Emotionally wrought, The Weeping Meadow is depressing but still lovely for its depth of character and portrayal of Greek culture. As with any love story, the film reminds the viewer how human relationships are fragile yet enduring. --Trinie Dalton« less
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 01/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first image we see in Theo Angelopoulos' "Weeping Meadow" is an extreme long shot of a man driving a horse and carriage. The camera follows him from the distant, never going in for a close-up. Instead we just pan across the landscape, which looks run down and abandon.
This is a typical Angelopoulos shot. Another director may have put their camera closer to the subject and pan across and still be able to get the condition of the village, but not Angelopoulos. Angelopoulos is interested in the big picture. He wants us to get a feel for the village, he wants the characters and the landscape to soak into our memory.
It is precisely because of shots like this wider audiences will never appreciate his style. They will complain his films are too long (this film is over two and a half hours), his camera barely moves, he lingers on his subjects long after the "point" of the scene has been made...ect, ect.
But if you find you have the patience to sit down and watch one of his films you will be rewarded. I refer to Angelopoulos as the mastery of imagery. No filmmaker has captured such images in the history of cinema which has pleased my eyes more. Oh I know there are other great directors, Herzog, Pasolini, and Renoir but Theo Angelopoulos just seems to go down like a smooth shot of vodka (or should I say ouzo?). There is something I find refreshing in his work. Namely his ability to simply let the story move at its own pace. He doesn't seem constrained by a film's running time.
In "Weeping Meadow" we get what is suppose to be the first part of a trilogy dealing with the history of Greece. This film takes place from 1919 to 1945. But the film is told from the point of view of a young couple as we see how world events affect their marriage and challenge their love for each other.
The movie is filled with memorable moments. Many of which take place by the ocean. I'm reminded of a funeral scene, where we see the casket in a boat drifting along the tide as a procession of boats follow it. Then there is a scene where the village is flooded. We see families escape as the water has reached their roofs.
These scenes will linger in your mind as well, but, if there is one flaw to the film it is that the politics of Greece are not a prominent enough part of the story. Only at the end of the film, when dealing with WW2 does politics come front and center. Before that I honestly could not tell you what historical moments were taking place.
The film follows the young couple, Eleni (Alexandra Aidini) and her husband, whom isn't given a name (Nikos Poursadinis) as he searches for a job. He is a musician who gets a job playing in a band led by Nikos (Giorgos Armenis). But as this goes on I couldn't begin to tell you what was going on as far as Greece's history is concerned.
If Angelopoulos really wanted to tell this story correctly I think he should have abandon this trilogy idea and made one long epic movie.
Other films have attempted to tell their country's history through a few characters. Right now I'm thinking of Bernardo Bertolucci's "1900" and Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Berlin Alexanderplatz". Also the more recent "Best of Youth".
"Weeping Meadow" doesn't have that epic feel to it. Had Angelopoulos put more of Greece's politics into the story I would have enjoyed it more. As someone who isn't Greek the idea of seeing a film about the country's history, from one of my favorite directors, excited me. But I didn't gather a true sense of Greece or it's history. Maybe the other two films in this trilogy will expand upon this aspect.
Angelopoulos has told the story of his country before. He made a film about Alexander the Great and even films such as "The Traveling Players" and "Landscape in the Mist" touched upon Greece's history. In fact at times I thought of "Players" as I watched this film. "Players" also followed a group of entertainers as Greece's history was being made just as we follow the group of musicians in this movie.
"Weeping Meadow" despite everything is not a bad movie. It is worth seeing especially if you are a filmbuff or an Angelopoulos fan. The reason the film works mostly for me is because of those startling images he gives us. He really is the master of imagery.
Bottom-line: Theo Angelopoulos's ambitious tale of the history of Greece doesn't quite live up to what could have been. The movie doesn't give the viewer much of an understanding of Greece's history but it is filled with such memorable cinematograpy and images it makes it hard to resist.
George D. OBrien | Middlebury, VT, USA | 12/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having lived in Greece for a year, I wanted to see this film which covers the history of the country through the eyes of a single family line. It starts with the expulsion of the Greeks from Turkey and contiunes through the civil war of the 1940's. But history is not the final point. This film contains scenes of striking beauty and poetry such as I have hardly ever seen. One wonders over and over how these scenes were created and photographed. It is awe inspiring. The first of a trilogy. One can only hope that Angelopoulos completes the task."
An Hellenic Odyssey
Tintin | Winchester, MA USA | 08/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Weeping Meadow" is the first film of "The Trilogy," Angelopoulos' newest and most ambitious project, and clearly his valedictory project. The story proceeds in a straight-forward, linear fashion, unusual for Angelopoulos' treatment of time, which is often somewhat convoluted. The historical period covered by the present film, beginning twenty years earlier than in his 1975 historical epic, "The Travelling Players," overlapping only with the latter from 1939 until the end of the Greek Civil War, in 1949. This is the first time, since "Reconstruction" (1970), that Angelopoulos casts a woman as the central character of a film. This leading role is interpreted by Alexandra Aidini, a first-year student at the National Theater's drama academy, in her debut appearance on the screen. Her acting shows unusual maturity for an unseasoned actress, as she transforms herself convincingly, physically and mentally, from a young woman in her late teens to a woman in her thirties. Alexis' role is entrusted also to a first-year student at the same academy, Nikos Poursanidis, whose performance is convincing. Giorgos Armenis, as Nikos, is most touching in his portraying of a stoic character, full of humanity and compassion. Milhalis Giannatos' part, as the clarinetist of the group, is small but effective. Rather atypical for Angelopoulos, there are some expository dialogues in the earliest scenes, but they appear a little gauche. However, in keeping with his unique style, dialogues are sparse, without any monologues or exchanges during which his characters exteriorize their inner conflicts, doubts, or feelings. The filmmaker prefers to keep his viewers away from their emotional responses, and instead forces them to explore and study the identities of his characters. The action, as in the classic Greek theater, takes place offstage and is described not by the chorus, but by some of the different characters functioning, in turn, as the chorus.
The cinematography is by Andreas Sinanos who had been Giorgos Arvanitis' assistant, from 1975 until1983. The whole film is shot under covered skies, threatening or rainy weather, and misty Greek landscapes in dark colors of grays, blues, and greens. Red appears briefly on three occasions: on the ground under the tree, as the blood of the sheep hanging from the branches above; in the women's dresses at the Popular Front dance; and in Elini's unfinished sweater, as Alexis is departing for America. The colors, the characters, and their costumes, the usual decors of the familial tales are all represented in a style all in tableaux and plan-sequences of an Angelopoulos who has totally reverted to the aesthetics of his first films. The only compromise made has been in the black flags of death instead of the red ones of the revolution. Angelopoulos' films contain many image references and lines of dialogues from his previous films, and this film is no exception, which makes it a delight for Angelopoulos' aficionados.
Angelopoulos' productions are always filmed on location in remote areas, using the available decor, with minimal construction. But this film is rather unusual insofar as it required the massive constructions of a whole city neighborhood of some two hundred 1920-style, stone houses in the Thessaloniki's harbor section, which will eventually be burnt down, and of a whole village at the edge of Lake Kerkini, some distance north of the city. The choice of the village's location was dictated by the fact that by March, the lake would be rising by about two meters, and the structures would then be submerged for the purpose of the plot. Yorgos Patsas and Kostas Dimitriadism, set designers, built the city neighborhood to be burnt and the village to be submerged, and Andreas Sinanos, the cinematographer, filmed the disasters.
The story is based on a short story by Italian screenwriter, old friend and close collaborator, Tonino Guerra (whose filmography extends to 99 films, including films with Antonioni, Fellini, and Tarkovsky), with the additional participation of Petros Markaris, and Giorgio Silvagni.
The music is by Angelopoulos' long time collaborator, Eleni Karaindrou. Her music is not a background accompaniment, but a dramatic element, a living component of the story, an actor adding some words that had not been spoken.
In "The Trilogy," of which "The Weeping Meadow" is the first part, Angelopoulos plans to recall his country's history, from the early years of the last century to the present, as seen through the eyes of a woman, Eleni, as she lives her life. As a child, she knows death and exile, as an adolescent she lives a passionate love, she then becomes a mother, is persecuted for her ideas, and finally faces death again and ends up alone in the world. Her story has, as principal theme, the exile of the Greek people, and the displacement of the people in general, at the whim of History. The time during the two World Wars saw huge numbers of Greek refugees move throughout the Balkans, and to the "promised land," America. After WWII, more than one million refugees, both political and economical, left for Germany which had become the new "promised land." Angelopoulos tackles his themes as he would in a Greek tragedy, and as in all Greek tragedies, a single primordial mistake leads to an unstoppable chain of events, one that crushes inexorably the main character.
Whereas in "The Travelling Players" History was the principal character, and the itinerant group of players, rather than any particular individual character, was another "star" of the film, in the present film, History is now relegated to the background over which Eleni's story is told. Eleni, whose very name evokes Greece, becomes a metaphor for the Greek nation and its people. She is the Greek mythological mother who laments the sacrifices of her fathers, brothers, and sons. But she is also the modern heroine, as women everywhere throughout the ages, who bend and stagger under the weight of adversity. Furthermore, Angelopoulos' treatment of History in "The Weeping Meadow" is certainly different from that in "The Travelling Players." In the latter film, Angelopoulos' views contradict the "official" Greek history and constitute a fundamental revision of history in which the Left, in general, and the Communist Party of Greece in particular, are given their proper places, and are not depicted as the moral threat to Greek democracy. In "The Weeping Meadow," History is simply there, absolute, and not open to interpretations.
Since we became familiar with the cinema of Angelopoulos, we know his fascination with the Greek myths, that they are eternal, and that History repeats itself. In this particular film there are references to the Theban cycle of the Lavdakides family - "Oedipus, The Seven against Thebes", and "Antigone." There are only traces of these myths, as Alexis, although feeling responsible for his father's death, is surely not Oedipus, and Eleni is not Iocasta, as she is not Alexis' biological mother. In "The Seven against Thebes," the brothers are implacable enemies, but here the twins only happen to find themselves in opposing camps. And Eleni does not bury her brother against the will of the King: she his actually allowed to bury her twin sons. There is also a reference to Homer's Penelope in the departure scene to America, where Alexis unwinds Eleni's unfinished knitted sweater. Or is it Ariadne's thread, which allowed Theseus's exit from the labyrinth? But in the present film, the thread broke and Alexis-Theseus never came back. All these allusions to Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Homer are only here because they make the poet Angelopoulos dream.
Of course, there are always many symbols in Angelopoulos' film, some whose interpretations are not always clear, even to the author himself. In "The Weeping Meadow," water is associated with pain and death, and pain is the prevalent emotion in the film. The trains, which keep crisscrossing the screen, are carriers of bad omens.
Angelopoulos' work is an uncompromising devotion to cinema as poetry. His films are elegant, powerful, and eloquent. They are also long and demanding on the part of the spectator, but always well worth the effort. Angelopoulos' films have something of melancholic, but they are not pessimistic. The melancholy that one feels is the dignity of the heart confronted with the defeat of a vision.
"The Weeping Meadow" won the European Film Academy Critics Award --Prix FIPRESCI, in 2004.
A Grecian Threnody
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE WEEPING MEADOW ('Trilogia I: To Livadi pou dakryzei') is writer/director Theodoros Angelopoulos (with influences from Tonino Guerra plus assistance from Petros Markaris and Giorgio Silvagni) creating a personal vision of the 20th century. The incredibly gifted Greek poet of a filmmaker mirrored the life and death of his own mother whose time on earth spanned a century and elected to capture the 100 years of sadness in a trilogy of films: The Weeping Meadow is Part I and details the years 1919 through 1949. It is a masterwork.
The film opens with what will be the trademark look of the movie - vistas of lonely people in a nearly monochromatic color space that uses water, both from rain and the collected results of rain. A group of refugees from Odessa have landed by a river in Thessaloniki where they must attempt to reconstruct their lives. Among them is a family - a wife and husband with their young son and a three-year-old orphan Eleni they have protected. The entire movie seems to be in slow motion, but that is just the studied, unhurried rhythm of Angelopoulos' direction. As time passes we find that Eleni at a very early age has just given birth to twin boys while she has been sent away for the family's appearances: the father is the young son of the family. The story progresses through the World Wars, the civil wars, the influence of Hitler and Mussolini, the natural disasters of floods and disease, the social disparities of class, the rise of unions, the fall of democracy - all mirrored in the family that is trying to make the chaos of living in Greece resemble some sort of order. The young man is a musician and once he and Eleni have reunited with their twin boys, he decides he will go to America, the land of Promise for poverty stricken refugees, to work and make enough money to bring Eleni and the twins to America. But in his absence the progressive civil unrest and poverty the three endure in his absence results in the ultimate dissolution of the family.
The story is less important than the moods evoked. The cinematography by Andreas Sinanos is a long gallery of miraculously composed, beautiful images: the cortege on the river, the flapping white sheets behind which we discover musicians, the constant vistas of the ocean and the river, the village and the battlegrounds burn themselves onto our visual fields and into memory. The gorgeous music that accompanies this symphonic work is by Eleni Karaindrou, mixing folksongs with wondrous symphonic moments. The cast is superb: they manage to create very specific people despite the fact that we rarely see them up close. But in the end this visual treasure is the extraordinary work of Theodoros Angelopoulos. If this is Part I of a Trilogy (at almost three hours running time), we can only imagine the power that will follow in the Parts II and III. Experiencing THE WEEPING MEADOW takes patience and a long uninterrupted period of time; the rewards are immeasurably fine. In Greek with English subtitles. Grady Harp, February 07 "
A Masterpiece Fully Worthy of the Word
Author-Poet Aberjhani | Georgia, United States | 05/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fate and History are not presented as flesh and blood characters in this first part of Theodoros Angelopoulos' "Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow," but the presence of each is so tangible that they could be exactly that. The central characters, Alexis and Eleni first meet as children driven together by the destruction of the town of Odessa, Greece, during World War I. As they grow up, their lives take one fateful twist after another beginning when a teenaged Eleni gives birth to twin boys. Growing into a young woman, she marries a man old enough to be her grandfather but, at the wedding ceremony's conclusion, abandons him to run off with her elderly groom's son, Alexis, who has grown into a gifted musician.
Eleni's hope is clearly to reclaim her adopted twins and live a life of domestic harmony and loving devotion but the abandoned groom will have none of that as he hounds their every step until he literally drops dead. History also proves an enemy to their happiness. With the coming and passing of the Second World War, the young lovers go through a series of transformations as social outcasts, struggling artists, desperate parents, and political refugees. This spellbinding odyssey takes its greatest toll on Eleni, who loses her husband, twin sons, and sanity to the ravages of twentieth century warfare. She becomes a kind of "Everywoman" of the first half of the twentieth century, an era when countries worldwide repeatedly called men to war while women became casualties of the grief, poverty, and physical destruction left behind.
From its opening scene of Greek refugees from Odessa moving toward a river, to its conclusion, "The Weeping Meadow" floods the screen with some of the most eerily surrealistic images in cinematic history. Were it not for the progression of a precise timeline moving from one World War to another, and providing a solid structure for the overall drama, a viewer might easily get lost drifting along in such haunting images as dead sheep hanging from the branches of a tree, a funeral service conducted in row boats alongside rooftops, or a crowd of wailing women running toward a field of dead "husbands, sons, and brothers." The images take on even greater intensity framed by composer Eleni Karaindrou's brilliant soundtrack.
That this first part of Theo Angelopoulos' Trilogy is an indisputable masterpiece is a fact that speaks for itself. The only question is whether the great director will be able to achieve in parts two and three the same sweeping grandeur and majesty that fills every frame of "The Weeping Meadow."
by Author-Poet Aberjhani author of "The Harlem Renaissance Way Down South" and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (Facts on File Library of American History)"