Angelopoulos’ movie is not a journey to a destination.
It is a journey to infinite emptiness.
Spiros is a Greek who fought with the losing side of the Greek Civil War in 1946-1949.
After spending many years in exile, presumably a republic of Soviet Union, he returns to Greece.
He arrives alone, with a suitcase and his violin, aboard a ship named “Ukraina”.
His son and daughter are waiting for him at the port and drive him to his wife’s house, where old friends and relatives have gathered to welcome him.
But things turn sour from the very beginning.
Minutes after Spiros arrives at the house, his reunion with his wife, Katerina, turns into a disaster.
It was something he said to her when they were alone.
Spiros leaves the house without uttering a word.
Later Spiros recounts his stay in exile: “and one day a woman prepares a meal for you, she mends your shirt… so I have two kids up there”.
After spending a night at a hotel, Spiros, Katerina, his son and daughter embark on a journey to Spiros’ village.
The village is where he lived and fought during the civil war.
Upon entering the village, he meets his arch enemy Antonis, who greets him by saying “we both lost”.
The village appears deserted.
Most of the inhabitants have left, and are now ready to sell their land to an “investor”.
Spiros refuses to sign the sale documents and causes the whole deal to break.
Instead of being a “nice old guy who made a mistake but now is back and harmless”, Spiros is a “bad guy, who does not understand the new Greece, and creates problems”.
He therefore has to be expelled.
Spiros and Katerina leave the village before the police come, but they are found at a railway station.
The police take Spiros into custody and lead him to the port.
But the ship has sailed, another that is just moving out of the port refuses to take him on board, and the only solution for the authorities is to take him out on a platform that rests in international waters.
Later Katerina joins Spiros on the platform.
She wants to be with him.
A little while later, Spiros releases the rope that ties the platform to an anchor, and the platform slowly moves out.
To infinite emptiness.
Spiros does not belong to modern Greece. And modern Greece does not want him there.
The lonely prophet of Rupture is now a freak in the eyes of “society”.
This is why Spiros’ wooden hut on top pf the mountain is burned by unknown villagers.
His refusal to sell this patch of land destroyed the deal with the winter ski center investor.
Before leaving the village Spiros goes to the graveyard and dances.
It is a farewell dance to his comrades, to the past.
After all, he only exists in the past.
His fellow villagers scorned him after he refused to sign the land deal, saying: “You do not exist. You were condemned to death four times.”
What sets the stage for the finale of the movie is Spiros’ monologue.
“I hear you coming, Death. I escaped from you five times: five wars, prisons, the execution squad. I escaped from you. I hear you, I hear you coming, I hear you.”
“σε ακούω θάνατε που έρχεσαι. Σε ξεγέλασα πέντε φορές: πέντε πόλεμοι, φυλακές, το στήσιμο στον τοίχο. Σε ξεγέλασα. Σ’ακούω, σ’ακούω που έρχεσαι, σ’ακούω”.
Questions and afterthoughts
The importance of Greek Civil War in the development of Greece is unquestionable.
But has not been explored to the full yet.
The economic and social crisis that started in 2008 and continues is not accidental, nor is it unrelated to the legacy of the civil war.
I claim that one of the key components of this legacy is the blueprint of “economic development a la Greque”.
Foreign powers and institutions give a bundle of money, a package so to speak, to Greece.
The package is used to solidify the power of the ruling elite, strengthen the armed forces, and leave some funds for distribution to cooperating citizens.
This blueprint was enhanced by Andreas Papandreou to its “socialist” version, meaning that money were distributed to a wider spectrum of people, and a new elite was formed.
But the blueprint remained the same. More in another post.