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Greece, 1970 (MIFF 1997, Mediterranean Masterpieces - The Films of Theo Angelopoulos)

Director: Theo Angelopoulos

Angelopoulos' first feature, shot in just 27 days in the tiny village of Thalia with a crew of five and a budget of just over US$10,000. Though lacking the pictorial elegance of his sub­sequent work, many of his later themes are already evident in this account of the murder of a Greek worker by his wife and her lover. The pair falsify evidence of the husband's return to Germany, but arouse the suspicions of a sister-in-law, one of the silent, deeply judgmental women of the village, and finally break down, accusing each other of the crime. Though based on an actual event, in Angelopoulos' hands the tale takes on a marked resemblance to Aeschylus's Oresteian trilogy (a source he was to revisit five years later in The Travelling Players), as well as to Visconti's Ossesione.

Typically, we're never shown the actual mur­der, only its re enactment, under the supervision of both the investigating magistrate, and a film crew making a documentary about the incident. It's an apposite strategy, since Angelopoulos is not concerned with the act per se (hence his non-sequential structure), but with the social conditions which inspired it - particularly the oppressive environment of the village, described by British critic Dilys Powell as "the terrible enclosure of existence in a depopulated country­side...the solitude, the poverty, the ferocious temper of the climate." One memorable image here - the wife calmly planting leeks over the fresh grave of her husband - offers a concise visual summation of Angelopoulos' meditative preoccupation with the Hellenic landscape, and the crimes it conceals.

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