Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eternity and a Day

Mia aioniotita kai mia mera; drama, Greece / France / Germany / Italy, 1998; D: Theo Angelopoulos, S: Bruno Ganz, Achileas Skevis, Isabelle Renauld, Fabrizio Bentivoglio

Winter. The story follows the last day in life of bearded poet Alexander who is dying from a terminal disease. Knowing he will be transfered to the hospital the next day, he decides to finish all the unsolved business in his life, like finding someone who will take care of his dog and talk to his daughter Katarina, but is shocked to find out that she sold his old mansion for demolition. He saves an Albanian boy from human trafficking and spends the day trying to find a way to bring him back home. Finally, he has hallucinations of his deceased wife.

This unknown Golden Palm winner in Cannes is a surprisingly fluent and stylistically pleasant piece of small art-drama revolving around the simple, but stimulative story about an ill man who decides to spend the last 24 hours of his life on a good deed, on helping an Albanian boy find way back to his home country. There is no need for mystification since this is a fairly straightfroward storyline, yet enriched with neat poetic moments (i.e. in one scene, Katarina reads the two decade old letter of her mother, who was describing her feelings for her sleeping husband: "I still felt his warmth on my body...I dared not dream that he was dreaming about me.") and wonderfully balanced tone. Some attempts at poetry backfire, however, and seem rather naive. Director Theo Angelopoulos is more a "normal" talent than an "extraordinary" talent, yet has a sense for delicious shot composition reminiscent of Takrovsky, crafting 2 minute long takes in avarage with a "floating camera" that slowly glides through the scene, which makes even conventional situations, like a wedding or the hero walking on a cliff near a beach, somehow engaging and aesthetic. Quality slow movie.


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