Trilogia I: To Livadi pou dakryzei

(The Weeping Meadow) (2004)

 

 

Director:      Theodoros Angelopoulos. 

Starring:     Alexandra Aidini (Eleni), Nikos Poursadinis (Young Man), Giorgos Armenis (Nikos, the Fiddler), Vassilis Kolovos (Spyros), Eva Kotamanidou (Cassandra), Toula Stathopoulou (Woman in the Coffee House), Michael Yannatos (Zissis, the Clarinet Player), Thalia Argiriou (Danae), Grigoris Evangelatos (Teacher).

roughly spans the period from World War I to post World War II, 1919-1949

 

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

c. 1919.  Gulf of Thessaloniki.  Greek refugees from Odessa during the Russian Civil War following the Russian Revolution of 1917.  The last group of Greeks to leave Odessa.  On St. Stefan's Day, the Red Army entered the city.  The spokesman for the group is Spyros.  With him are his wife Danae, their son Alexis, an informally adopted refugee girl named Eleni whose mother was killed, and his sister Cassandra. 

Eleni becomes pregnant with twins by Alexis.  They are given up for adoption.  Cassandra says that the family should have left the area in 1922 .  (Following the Greco-Turkish War, over one million Greeks in Turkey left for Greece.)   Alexis has to sneak around to talk to Eleni.  

Eleni is forced to marry her adoptive father Spyros.  Still in her wedding dress, she runs away with Alexis.  Spyros is very upset.  His first wife Danae died in the great epidemic.  Alexis and Eleni are picked up by a group of traveling musicians.  They are taken to another town.  They stay in an old theatre in Thessaloniki, city of refugees, with 85 refugee families.  The musicians live there also.  The leader of the musicians, Nikos, takes the two young people under his wing. 

Eleni tries to find her boys.  She is able to see Yorgos and Yannis from a short distance. 

Spyros comes to the theatre looking for Eleni.  He doesn't see her but he shouts:  "You've shamed me.  . . .Everyone pities me."  The young couple have to leave.  They are sent to the neighborhood with the sheets (that is, hundreds of sheets hung on lines to dry).  The area is very muddy from the many rains.  Some houses have flooded.  Alexis plays the accordion and he is more formally introduced to Nikos's musicians.   Nikos proposes that Alexis travel with the musicians.  Alexis dreams of going to America.  Spyros is still snooping around looking for Alexis and Eleni.

Nikos sets up a gig for the group.  They take a train to get to the place.  When they arrive they find out that the place is closed.  Some soldiers walk by.  Later on the train back, Nikos says:  "We lost."  (Probably referring to the end of the Second Hellenic Republic in 1935.)  He cries for the loss. 

Alexis tells Eleni that he is leaving.  He does not want to play at taverns and weddings.  "It's not music."  (Eleni thinks he is leaving her too.)  Nikos sets up an audition with band leader Markos.  His group is going to America to play for the Greeks there.  Markos likes his playing. 

Some people run by shouting "Long live the Popular Front."  There is a call for a General Strike.  Eleni puts on her wedding dress.  She goes down by the pier.  She says she is waiting for the boat.  Alexis shows up.  He explains that he did not betray her. 

Eleni and Alexis get to see the twins with the agreement of the adoptive mother.  The boys won't say hello to their biological mother.  One of the boys is especially angry at her. 

A Popular Front is organized.  The gendarmes start chasing some of the organizers.  Nikos, Eleni and Alexis have to run to escape possibly being harmed.  Nikos says:  "Everyone's afraid the General will stage a coup with the king's consent."  He speaks of the days of 1936. 

The musicians have a hard time getting a place to perform.  They decide to have the trade union dance in the old beer hall with wine and music.  A crowd eventually starts showing up.  The musicians say that the tavernas do not want them because they were afraid of the police.   During the dance, Spyros shows up.  He dances with Eleni for a short while.  He starts to leave; falls down; and dies.  Eleni, Alexis and the two boys attend the funeral.  They then return to the family home.  There they find all of grandfather's sheep hanging from a huge tree.  Obviously the town is not too fond of the returning family.  All the house windows are broken by residents throwing rocks.  Alexis stands outside holding up a lantern in a stand of defiance.  Later Eleni notices that the basement is flooded.  In fact, the whole village is flooded.  Eventually a boat comes to their rescue.  Alexis and family move back to the neighborhood of sheets. 

The noise of soldiers breaking glass in a building is heard.  Civilians are forced up against the wall and more are being brought.  One fellows looks as though he is being tortured, while another lies dead on the ground.  Alexis and Eleni take a walk.  Nikos calls them over to him.  He says:  "Our feeble democracy committed suicide.  Fascism is spreading over Europe."  Union members are arrested. Falangists pass by on a train.  (The falange was a fascist political organization founded in Spain in 1933 and used by fascist Franco.)

The band plays for Alexis and Eleni.  Gun shots are heard.  Everyone runs for safety.  But Nikos has been shot.  He dies. 

There is a large ship that will head to America tied up in the harbor.  The musicians with Markos wait for Alexis to arrive.  He is late, so they are rowed to the ship.  Alexis and Eleni arrive and Alexis thinks he has been left behind.  But someone tells him there is one boat waiting for him.  Alexis has to say good-bye to Eleni. 

Eleni receives a letter from Alexis.  New York, March 5, 1937.  Life is not so easy in the United States.  The Ellis Island experience was not a pleasant one and now the band has been split by tension and troubles. 

One day two men dressed in black take Eleni away.  She is placed in a jail cell.  (No explanation given.)

Greek soldiers on a train sing a song:  "You idiot Mussolini, you'll have no one left."  Presumably these soldiers are heading out to stop the Italian invasion of Greece.  Eleni runs to her old apartment to find it burned. 

Another letter from Alexis.  Astoria, New York, October 30, 1940.  Alexis writes that he heard that war has come to Greece.  He is going to enlist tin the American army to fight eventually and as a way to get citizenship for Eleni and the twins.

Eleni is back in jail.  Later the warden tells her that she is getting out.  Why?  "You've got a son in the military. You are from a border village lost years ago in a flood."  He also gives Eleni a four year old letter found by a dead American soldier.  Eleni collapses. 

A train stops at a small station.  It drops off a lot of women dressed all in black.  A spokesman tells the women that their sons, husbands, and brothers lie behind them on the beach.  The women turn around and see the dead bodies.  They run to find their loved ones.  Eleni cries when she sees her dead son Yannis.  The Red Cross bring Eleni to a small house where her Aunt Cassandra is staying.  The aunt and a friend have to virtually carry Eleni into the house.  Cassandra now regrets how badly she treated Eleni in the past.  Cassandra learns from the delirious Eleni that she has had Greek, German and English guards while she was in jail.  She reveals that she was in jail for harboring an insurgent (later she says for hiding a wounded guerrilla, probably in the Greek Civil War following the end of World War II).  She says she is in exile, a refugee.   

Eleni is taken to a forbidden zone.  She has to keep her head down.  She learns that this was the battle ground where Yorgis and Yannis fought.  There is a flashback where the two twins, one fighting for the government and one fighting for the insurgents, meet under a flag of truth.  The reason for the meeting is to say that their adoptive mother has died, found huddled in her jail cell.  They hug and cry.  Eleni is told that her son Yorgis can be found in the ruins of a house in the flood waters.  Eleni rows a boat out to the house and cries when she sees the body of her dead son. 

The last letter from Alexis.  March 1945.  Kerama Islands, an American base, 15 miles west of Okinawa.  He writes that his unit is getting read for the battle of Okinawa. 

Eleni wails over the body of Yorgis:  "No one to love." 

 

Good movie, but at times a bit strange.  At one point my wife and I both wondered if it was going to be a surrealist film.  The movie was also hard to follow as it relates to Greek history.  I had to write the historical background up before I really started to piece together the timeline for the movie.  It would help if a new viewer would read about the history first.  Armed with the history, one can better appreciate the film.  The lives of Alexis and Eleni span a very important and interesting chapter in Greek history.  The movie is a bit sad, but that matches the troubles Greece faced during this time.  Alexandra Aidini was great as Eleni, especially considering the young age of the actress. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

 

Thessaloniki is in the Greek district of Central Macedonia.  Today it has a population of almost a million. It is the second biggest city in the country.  It is on the Gulf of Thessaloniki. 

1829  --  Greece obtains independence from the Ottoman Empire. 

1828-1833  --  First Hellenic Republic. 

Ioannin Kapodistrias (a Greek-Russian who was the Russian minister for foreign affairs), returned home to be the President of the new Greek Republic.

1833-1862  --  the European powers helped turn Greece into a monarchy with the first king, Otto from Bavaria. 

1863-1913   --  rule of George I from Denmark. 

1912-1913  -  the Balkan Wars.  Epirus, southern Macedonia, Crete and the Aegean Islands were annexed into Greece.

1913-1917  --  rule of Constantine I (first reign). 

1914-1918  --  World War I; Greece sided with the entente powers against the Central Powers (including Turkey).  After the war, Greece was awarded parts of Asia Minor.  Included in this was the city of Smyrna (today's Izmir).  Smyrna has a majority Greek population. 

1917-1920    --  rule of Alexander. 

1919  --  Greek refugees from Odessa (in today's Ukraine) settle in Greece because of the Russian Civil War following the Russian Revolution of 1917. 

1919-1922  --  the Greco-Turkish War.  Led by the great leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkish nationalists overthrew the Ottoman government.  They led a military assault on the Greek troops.  Turkey won.  Over one million native Greeks of Turkey had to leave for Greece. 

1920-1922  --  rule of Constantine I (second reign). 

1922-1924  --  rule of George II (first reign). 

1924-1935  --  Second Hellenic Republic. 

1935-1947  --  rule of George II (second reign). 

1940 (October 28)  --  Italy under Mussolini invaded Greece.  The Greeks were able to repel the Italians; the first Allied victory in the war.

Hitler intervenes by invading Greece.  The Greek economy is ruined. 

1944 (October 30)  --  end of Nazi occupation. 

1947-1964  --   rule of Paul I. 

post-WWII to 1949  --  Greek Civil War; the government against communist insurgents. 

1947  --  Greece reached its present configuration.

1964-1973  --  rule of Constantine II.

1967-1974  --  rule of Greek Military Junta.

1974-          --  Third Hellenic Republic. 

 

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