Thursday, September 21, 2006

Trilogy: Weeping Meadow

Trilogy: Weeping Meadow is the latest film by Greek film director Theo Angelopoulos. It begins in 1919, as Greek refugees fleeing the Bolshevik revolution return to their homeland and settle at the estuary of a vast river in the north of the country. The man who leads them brings with him his wife, his young son Alexis, and a girl, Eleni, found lying next to her dead mother. The next scene moves us forward in time by when a small town has developed next to the river. Eleni has been discovered to be pregnant with twin boys and sent off secretly to a relative. Next, again moving forward in time, Eleni is married to Alexis' father but runs off with Alexis (the father of her children) just as the marriage service ends. They are helped by some musicians who Alexis joins as an accordionist. The rest of the film follows their travels, the separations and deaths that befall them due to the difficult social circumstances of Greece before, during and after the second world war.

Theo Angelopoulos is said to be a difficult director, and while I am usually very patient with films I found Weeping Meadow to be difficult for several reasons. The most striking is the way the film keeps skipping several years without explanation and leaves you to catch up on what is happening with the merest of hints, and sometimes barely even that. I don't mind so much the slow pace as the effect this fragmentation of the narrative has on understanding and empathising with the characters.

Secondly it is beautifully shot with some quite incredible images, but the way the camera moves, always incredibly slowly either zooming in or out or moving from left to right, seems to constantly hold the main characters at a distance. They either become overwhelmed by the choreographed setting or come into focus only at the end of the shot. This contrasts somewhat with the films of Ozu which are made up of totally static impeccably framed shots which situate the characters within their living spaces, or the mobile camera of Kieslowski's Three Colours Red mysteriously linking the destinies of the, as yet, unrelated protagonists. My disappointment with the film was that despite its aching beauty, the tragedy that unfolds left me cold.

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