The Weeping Meadow


MOVIE REVIEW by Willard Manus

The latest film by Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos, THE WEEPING MEADOW hasn't found theatrical release in the USA, but a DVD is now available from (or New Yorker Films) and is well worth the price. Like almost all of Angelopoulos's features, THE WEEPING MEADOW is long (three hours), slow in pace, austere in tone and style. But its narrative sweep, striking poetic imagery and masterful investigation of 20th century Greek history bring power and beauty to the screen. This is personal filmmaking in its purest, most uncompromising form.

THE WEEPING MEADOW opens in 1919 with a ragged bunch of Greek refugees arriving in Thessaloniki by boat, having been uprooted from their homes in Odessa by the Bolshevik revolution. Displacement is the film's main theme. Angelopoulos (and his co-writer, Tonino Guerra) dramatize the immigrants' struggle for survival in the years that follow, years that include poverty, hunger, social unrest, war and exile. At the heart of things is a tragic love story between Eleni (Alexandra Aidini) and her musician husband (Nikos Poursanidis), who, after finding work--and community--with a band of traveling players, departs for a job in the USA. Eleni cannot afford to join him and is left behind, with their two sons, to face WW II and the Greek Civil War on her own.

THE WEEPING MEADOW brilliantly recreates these events, which are presented in the controlled and highly stylized way that typifies an Angelopoulos film. MEADOW is also rich with allusions, not only to contemporary Greek history and class struggle, but Greek mythology and classical drama, all of which are referenced by the director in subtle ways. Angelopoulos' dialogue is sparse and understated, too, and he keeps an almost Brechtian distance from the on-screen action. Unlike most contemporary, TV-influenced directors, Angelopoulos rarely employs close-ups, favoring long- and medium-shots instead, angles that give the viewer room to see and judge things objectively. He is the thinking man's director (one, though, who sometimes runs the risk of alienating his audience by being too deliberate and obscure).

THE WEEPING MEADOW is the first part of a projected trilogy that will presumably follow Greek history right into the 21st century. Can't wait for the next installment.