Meteor and Shadow (1985)




Director:     Takis Spetsiotis.

Starring:     Takis Moschos (Napoleon Lapathiotis), Michail Marmarinos (Marios), Yiorgos Kendros (Takis).

Greek with English subtitles. 

poet Napoleon Lapathiotis and his shocking lifestyle


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

A woman visitor asks the young Napoleon Lapathiotis:  "Why does your mother love you so much?"  Napoleon answers because "I am to be a poet".

August 14, 1909.  Napoleon walks around with his friend Cleon.  They make quite a pair because they are immaculately dressed in white suits and white top hats.  They have a rather flamboyant walking style and are obviously homosexuals. 

At a party, Napoleon tells Miss Lia Kopoulou that Carnival is the only festival that he likes.  (He mentions later that Oscar Wilde soared too high.)

Now Napoleon's father is a Minister.  But when he spoke, both political parties walked out and asked him to resign.  The King summons Zorbas. 

Three fellows in a park start to make fun of Napoleon and Cleon when they walk by them.  One man shouts:  "Flesh for sale".

Armed soldiers appear in the streets.  The War Minister orders that Napoleon's father be detained.  He is placed in a military hospital and charged with conspiring against the government.  The police get a search warrant and go through the father's things in his house. 

December 23, 1910.  Napoleon is excited about seeing the great actress Sarah Bernhardt on her last Athenian tour. 

Napoleon appears in his military uniform.  He has put in fifteen months of military service.  He soon decides that he has had enough of the army and decides that he is not going to go back to his military unit. 

War in Europe.  Venizelos has gone to Salonicas to join the Allied cause.  Napoleon's father also decides to join the Allied cause. 

Napoleon goes out in public later and later in the evening.  He speaks in praise of the Greek-Egyptian poet Cavafy.  Napoleon writes to the Archbishop of Athens that he wants him to formally acknowledge that he has left the church.

Napoleon shouts that the workers should rally round the Communist flag.  The communists are then chased away by the police.  He later says that he is not a member of the Communist Party but adds that "communism is our last hope". 

Increasingly Napoleon is hanging out at night with men who are drug addicted.  Napoleon places some type of drug in his tobacco on rolling paper and rolls it into a cigarette.  An acquaintance of his writes a book about the "night prowlers" like Napoleon. Napoleon does not care for the book.  He says he does like the attitude of the author who uses the pseudo-morality of the bourgeoisie. 

Napoleon is close with Mr. Papanicolaou of Bouquet magazine. 

The bored Napoleon says:  "I want notoriety."  He has a plan.  He will write sensational stuff and then suddenly drop out of sight.  Later he will suddenly show up when everyone is talking about him again.  Some describe his attitude as being a "morbid disposition".

Napoleon tells friends that 1944 is "the end of the road for me".   He is now very poor.  War is going on but he does not even bother to get a ration card.  He says it is too much bother.  He puts his dinner noodles in a tin can and then wraps it up in old newspaper.  Napoleon then feeds the noodles to stray cats.   His living quarters are a real mess.  A friend says he needs a housekeeper/cleaner.

A group of men of the Resistance arrive to takes guns for the cause from Napoleon. 

Napoleon dies. 


An o.k. movie.  My wife did not like the movie at all.  She severely criticized it and then fell asleep.  I was kind of fascinated by the proud and flamboyant way in which Napoleon and his friends dressed and walked.  But you don't really learn that much about the poet himself.  The emphasis is more on his flamboyant and self-destructive life-style.  But it's not clear why he becomes a drug addict and a victim of depression.  He just suddenly starts going out later and later at night and hanging around with the wrong kind of people (drug addicts).  And it is not clear at all why he is considered such an important Greek poet. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:

1888  --- born in Athens, Greece.  His father was a politician. 

1891-1904  --  the Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy publishes his poetry for his close friends. His main audience was the Greeks in Egypt.

1897  --  the Crete politician Elefthérios Kyriakos Venizélos, who favored Cretan union with Greece, helped lead the Cretan rebellion. The Ottoman Empire granted Crete autonomy.

1899  --  at eleven years of age he began writing and publishing poetry.

1899-1902  --  Venizélos serving as the minister of justice for Prince George of Greece.  Later Prince George assumed absolute power. 

1903  --  the poet Cavafy is introduced to mainland Greek literary circles.  He became an influence on Napoleon Lapathiotis.

1905  --  Venizélos led an armed insurgency that eventually forced Prince George to leave the island.

1907   --  he helped establish the Igiso magazine.  Some of his work was published in the magazine. 

1909  ---  graduated in law from the University of Athens. 

1910  --  in Greece, Parliament was dissolved in a political crisis. Venizélos founded his Liberal Party in Greece.  In the same year he formed a government to lead Greece.

1912  --  during the First Balkan War, Napoleon was drafted into the Greek army.

1913  Crown Prince Constantine become king after his father's assassination.

1914  --  published the controversial "Manifesto" in the magazine Noumas.

1915-1916  --  the debate between Venizélos (who supported the Allied cause) and Constantine (who favored the Central Powers) was the cause of the National Schism that affected Greek politics for decades. 

1917  -- Constantine exiled; his second son Alexander succeeds him.  Venizélos returned to Athens and joined with the Allied Powers and declared war on the Central Powers.

1917  --  Napoleon published the poem "Kravgi" in Rizospastis.  He accompanied his father to Egypt.  There he met Constantine Cavafy.  

He starts using drugs.  And he only goes out in public at night. 

1920  --  in the elections Venizélos lost and King Constantine was recalled. Venizélos withdrew from politics and left for Paris.

1923  --   fall of the Greek monarchy.  Venizélos returns as prime minister. 

1924  --  Venizélos leaves government.

1927  -- espouses Communism.  He also writes the Archbishop of Athens to say that he is no longer in the church.

1928-1932  --  Venizélos ruled Greece. 

1933  --  death of Cavafy. 

1935  --  Venizélos exiled again.  George II returned to the throne. 

1936  --  Venizélos dies in Paris. 

1939  --   publication of Napoleon's first book of poems.

In his later life Napoleon was poor and addicted to drugs.  He also became very depressed.   

1944  --  he committed suicide with a revolver. 


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