THE WEEPING MEADOW (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 2004)

Oy, something else to blame on Bolsheviks! “Around 1919,” a large group of Greek refugees from Odessa build “Little Odessa” on land officially granted them near the Thessaloniki River—for them, perhaps a matter of cosmic justice and natural order, since this is the river they had crossed in returning home. A melancholy saga blending precise history and indefinite, even timeless myth, and launching a trilogy that has since continued with I skoni tou hronou (The Dust of Time, 2008), To livadi pou dakryzei advances (leisurely), through the Second World War, to the Greek Civil War in the 1940s. In its course, we follow Eleni and Alexis, tots at the beginning, as they grow into fugitive lovers on the heels of Eleni’s marrying Alexis’s father, Spyros—an Oedipal triangle that is less tragic or even melodramatic than politically resonant of fascism and dictatorship: unnatural order. The wedding was meant to restore familial and communal honor, as the young lovers had parented two twin boys, with whom they reunite on the occasion of Spyros’s death. The funeral procession of peopled rafts on water—in color, the gloomy image is heavily, lyrically black and white—proceeds toward us and the camera, thereby echoing the magisterial opening shot of the orderly group of expatriates, back in Greece, walking towards us, camera and river. It is a monolothic group entrenched in their cruel, traditional morality, generating a stunning image for our eyes and those of Eleni and Alexis: a huge tree from whose branches hang Spyros’s gutted sheep (the slowly forward-moving camera glimpses the blood-stained ground, concisely anticipating fascist murders and the wars ahead). The young couple are being denied their inheritance, and the house itself is beseiged with rocks, shattering windows, endangering even the bastard boys.
     The film is, of course, by Theodoros Angelopoulos. How fitting that it should come from Greece, France, Italy and Germany, for it is an example of the quintessential “European cinema” that Angelopoulos largely invented. I wish I liked it more, but only rarely during its three hours did it let me in.

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