Greece 108 Medals
Greece has built a strong cinematic history throughout films past. Like many countries its golden age came post WWII, with a very high production count and international acclaim in abundance. This like many countries was affected by the invention of television. With funding hard to find in a period where many people stayed at home, films became less about quality and more about guaranteeing a return on investment. Luckily many directors stuck to their aims of artistic fervor, and adapted their productions with the limited funding to ensure that Greece's filmic reputation did not falter. Nowadays, the supplementation of artistic endeavors remains, but what is of particular interest is the prominence of Greek films within the box office top 10 come the end of the year. It is not unheard of to see 2 or 3 films within the top 10 being domestically made Greek productions. With Hollywood dominating pretty much all of Europes box office, it is refreshing to see a national cinema which still draws in a lot of its own population. With directors such as Yorgos Lanthimos coming to be the voice of Greek cinema on the global stage, the future for Greeces cinematic output is looking increasingly bright, particularly when the countries inner turmoils look anything but. Bronze Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos. 2009) A beautiful yet weird film which announced director Yorgos Lanthimos to the world, Dogtooth examines what a Josef Fritzl type forced isolation can do to the development of a family. The film takes place in the isolation of a pristine middle class house. Within its walls lives a married couple and their three teenagers all of whom have been kept from the outside world. Both physically and mentally imprisoned by their father, they have no idea of their isolation from the world, to them this is life. The only outside influence is that of a young female colleague of the father, Christina, who is allowed into the house to fulfil the sexual urges of his son. When she becomes bored of these acts, she begins to affect the domestic balance by entering the lives of other family members. Lanthimoss vision of a controlled family can be at times humorous. For example the teenagers development of language is by tape recorder; however they make their own meanings of words; flowers become known as zombies, a motorway means a small wind and cats become vicious creatures capable of murder. At one point the father plays them a record claiming it was the voice of their grandfather; little do they know that it is actually Frank Sinatra. Ultimately however, their confinement is both shocking and disturbing. And as the film progresses we begin to see a darker side to their fascination with what exists outside of their fenced house. It is a frighteningly realistic examination of isolation from the world, yet Lanthimos mise-en-scene is decidedly sci-fi in appearance making the film seem rather hallucinatory. The colour palette is perfectly white with no imperfections, and when blood is introduced in one particular scene, it becomes particularly vivid and powerful upon the clean environment. Part of a strange new wave in Greek cinema, Lanthimos next film Alps, has promised an even weirder experience. Silver - The Travelling Players (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1975) A controversial film, The Travelling Players is another masterpiece by Greek legendary filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos. Made during a turbulent time in Greece when the Junta, a right wing military power, had control of the country, The Travelling Players examines Greeces troubled history. It follows a group of actors as they attempt to perform a play in a variety of Greek cities. Set between 1939 and 1952, the travelling players pass through a number of historical points and the film aims to show how they affect the actors and the cities they perform in. It then utilises an ancient Greek myth as a foundation for a second narrative involving the actors, wherein they play out a modernized version, emanating from their own current period of time. At four hours long it is the most ambitious film of Angelopouloss career, luckily it pays off. Tailored to a Greek audience it is more intimate in its narrative to a domestic audience. This may seem quite stifling for an uneducated international audience and at times with the constant chronological shifts, it can be. But in terms of the overall picture, this is essential for Angelopoulos. Utilising a slow pace, a technique Angelopoulos used throughout his career, allowed him to develop a more powerful meaning behind his shots. With many of his narratives politicized, especially The Travelling Players, this slow pace is echoed in his camera techniques and editing. With The Travelling Players four hour running time, his camera loiters to allow the audience to reflect on the image and its wider meaning in terms of the country's history. He rarely uses any type of edit, so rather than us becoming aware of the mechanics of the cinema, we instead focus on the image, the character and the location, emphasising their importance. Rather astonishlingly for a 4 hour film, The Travelling Players, amazingly, has little over 80 shots. Gold - Eternity and a Day (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1998) Having been nominated numerous times at Cannes for his work, Angelopoulos finally and deservedly won the Palme Dor for Eternity and a Day. The film follows a man, Alexander, who upon discovering he has a terminal illness, loses all pleasure for life and accepts his fate. That is until he meets a young Albanian immigrant, who is trying to leave Greece and return to his homeland. Obviously the road there is not a simple one, but the boys plight rejuvenates Alexander into caring about his passion, poetry. As he tries to help the boy, it seems his terminal illness is paralleled by the almost impossible, and dangerous task, of returning the boy to Albania. On their journey they encounter many different personalities. Although both appear terminally futile in their respective attempts, Angelopoulos makes us empathise with their plight; their friendship blossoming magnificently regardless of the age and cultural gap. Alexander's interaction with the world is very similar to that of Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru, another film revolving around a man discovering he is going to die, exploring how he spends his final days. Played superbly by German actor Bruno Ganz, Alexander lives in his past, trawling through it to discover the meaning to his dilapidated days. As much as the boys plight seems to represent his new found purpose in life for the albeit short present, it is the revisiting of his past that helps the character develop. Whether it be visiting his daughter in the flesh, or delving back into his previous marriage in his imagination, these moments provide a beautiful lyricism to his life. Again Angelopoulos adopts long takes as his means, and in doing so gives such a beautiful, emotive background and meaning to Alexander. He has created a eulogy to a man we did not know, yet at the films end, we are connected to dearly. Sadly Angelopoulos died earlier this year, but his legacy and impact upon Greek cinema will forever remain. Much like Alexander many of us will never of had the pleasure of meeting Theodoros Angelopoulos, yet through his films we may think we know him and with the evident intimacy in his work, perhaps we do.