Eleni (1985)



Director:  Peter Yates

Starring:  Kate Nelligan (Eleni), John Malkovich (Nicholas 'Nick' Gage), Linda Hunt (Katina), Oliver Cotton (Katis), Ronald Pickup (Spiro), Rosalie Crutchley (Grandmother), Glenne Headly (Joan), Dimitra Arliss (Ana), Steve Plytas (Christos), Peter Woodthorpe (Grandfather), Jon Rumney (Lukas), Alison King (Lukas' wife), Leon Lissek (Antoni), Stefan Gryff (Tasso).

Based on:  the autobiographical novel by Nicholas Gage.


A grown-up son searches for the murderers of his Greek mother in Greece.

Nicholas Gage (John Malkovich) is a New York Times journalist covering Albania.  On assignment he goes to the border between Albania and Greece.  He is searching for the evidence to find who it was that was responsible for the execution of his Greek mother Eleni (Kate Nelligan). Gage has periodic flashbacks to his childhood and his memories of his mother.  In the civil war, Eleni tries to protect her children from the ravages of war. For helping her children to escape to America, Eleni is arrested, tortured and executed.

Gage manages to locate local politico Katis (Oliver Cotton), the man who signed Eleni's death warrant.  He has a pistol in his brief case.  Will he carry out an execution of Katis as he did to his mother? 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:


The Greek Civil War

German occupation of Greece  --  during this period, much of the resistance came from the Communist National Liberation Front (EAM) and its military, the People's National Army of Liberation (ELAS).

1944 (September)  --  the Germans left Greece.

1944-1949  --  the Greek Civil War between the government backed by British and American support and the Greek Communists. According to  the Truman Doctrine, the U.S. would aide nations defending themselves against Communist forces.

Great Britain brought back the former government of Greece, along with the now included EAM. But many ELAS members would not cooperate with the British-supported government.  They threatened to take control of Greece. Great Britain moved to disarm the ELAS.

1944 (December 2)  --  the Communists called a general strike in Athens.

1944 (December 3)  --  the police and the ELAS came into conflict. After Winston Churchill visited, a truce was signed and ELAS guerrillas withdrew from Athens.

1945 (Feb. 12)  --  an agreement reached calling for the the ELAS to turn in its weapons within fourteen days.  The Communist forces of Greece retreated north into the mountains.. Here they got support from the neighboring countries of Yugoslavia (under Tito) and Albania.

The British sent 40,000 troops to Greece. 

1947 (February 21)  --  Great Britain asked the United States to give support to Greece and Turkey. President Truman asked Congress for $400 million. 

The ELAS formed a Communist government and with its  20,000 to 30,000 guerrillas it fought its way south, nearly reaching Athens.

With military aide, the communist forces were pushed back to the North. 

1948  (July)  --  Tito of Yugoslavia ended his support for the Greek Communists after they had supported Stalin rather than Tito on certain divisive issues.

The Communist guerrillas had occupied their village of Lia for the past nine months of the Green civil war.  Eleni Gatzoyiannis was 41 years old. 

1948 (August 28)  --  she was taken in a group of 13 to a ravine where they were all shot.  She was just one of 600,000 who were killed between the years 1940 and 1949. 

1949 (August 28)  --  the surrender of of the last group of Communists of any significant size. 

1949 (October 16)  --  the ELAS surrendered. 

"More than 28,000 Greek children were taken from their parents and sent to communist countries before the civil war ended in 1949.  All of Eleni's children reached America, including Glykeria, who escaped during the final battle of the war.  Eleni's five children and thirteen grandchildren all live near each other in Massachusetts."


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