THE BEEKEEPER (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1986)

Spyros might have been one of “the traveling players.” His life once meant something. Now in his sixties, he has retired (or been retired) from his job as a teacher and has split from Anna, his wife, who takes care of their son. (The one silent glimpse of the sullen young man we are given suggests that father and son are estranged.) Anna and Spyros are momentarily together as the parents of the bride at their daughter’s wedding reception. Afterwards, Spyros takes off in his lorry, which is stuffed to the gills with crates of bees; he traverses the land for springtime fields in which to unpack the crates, to stimulate the production of various honey. He is Odysseus, but now going homeless rather than going home.
     Along the way, Spyros visits human remnants of his past: old friends, political comrades. His homeland has become a desolate place; the traditional family has ebbed; a hitchhiking adolescent girl may be his last connection to a future. She chides Spyros for “remembering” more than living, but in truth she is at least as desolate for being a stranger to the past that her road-to-nowhere companion has lost.
     Recently we lost Theodoros Angelopoulos, who made this film. O melissokomos, from Greece, Italy and France, is a mostly silent, sleepy piece saturated with the honey of melancholy. It is pure ache—and a reminder of how penetrating an artist Angelopoulos could be. Fleetingly reminiscent of late Visconti, some of it wears a bit thin; but most of it deeply moved this viewer with its sense of a cultural and cross-cultural abandonment of vivid feeling. In this context, the girl, drunk, draws blood by biting Spyros’s wrist. It is a perilous rush for all of us.
     Marcello Mastroianni plays Spyros.

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