Theo Angelopoulos

Occupation: Director, screenwriter
Birth Name: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Born: 1936, Athens, Greece
Education: IDHEC, Paris


Born in Athens in 1936 to a family of merchants, he studied law at the University of Athens. After completing his military service, he went to Paris to attend the Sorbonne and then enrolled to study film in the prestigious French film school, IDHEC. He worked for a time at the Musee de I'Homme under the tutelage of Jean Rouch, the ethnographer and pioneer of cinema verite film. He returned to Athens in 1964 and, until 1967, was a film critic for the leftist paper "Democratic Ghange".
He began to make films at around 1965, an attempt at a full-length feature film entitled THE FORMINX STORY which he never completed after a disagreement with the producers and then a short film BROADCAST and in 1970 his first full-length feature film RECONSTRUCTION.
Since then his films have participated in countless international festivals and have won numerous awards that have established his reputation as one of the most influential directors in contemporary cinema.



The Jewel of Perdition

Theo Angelopoulos is a strange, solitary and uniquely modern filmmaker. Originally part of the so-called "Paris group", which was at the core of reaction in the sixties against traditional cinema, he soon moved away on his own to trace a brilliant course across the cinematic firmament, carving for himself an important niche among the great directors of the past century.

This film director, whose Greekness has at times been doubted, has a deep and mystic relation with Greece. In spite of having been born and raised in Athens, he travelled a great deal looking for that other Greece of ruined and abandoned villages in the mountains, dragging out of the ruins of past memories, lives buried in neglect. He searched the Greek countryside with passion, to give a clear and perceptive image of Greek reality.

Greece, the inexhaustible homeland, is not only a geographical site for Theo Angelopoulos. It is the incarnation of his spiritual anxieties and searchings and, by extension, his artistic expression. The Greece of today and the Greece of yesterday melt into a constant present in the same way that various cultural elements find a form of expression through his pioneering techniques. With his first effort, The Broadcast, he rediscovered in the lively atmosphere of Athens the "cinema-direct" he had learnt so well in Paris, while with Reconstitution, he moved on to his own film language, taking a dive into realism. He rebuilt, with a sense of freedom and originality, the reality of continental Greece, so much so that this film became a landmark in the history of Greek cinema and the beginning of its rebirth.
Starting from a pre-existent geographical reality, Theo Angelopoulos produced a new one which entered the realm of fantasy. To this concept of his we owe scenes like the one in which the actors chase a chicken in the absolute whiteness of a snowy background in The Travelling Players; or the make-believe football game and the boat voyage of left-wingers in The Hunters; or the bride trying to catch a bird flying in the festive hall in The Beekeeper; and the Greek-Albanian border and the bus in Eternity and a Day.
In spite of all this, even if on the outside his films are voyages in Greece and a little beyond its borders, in fact they depict voyages in time. Since this is not easy to show in pictures, he extends the pictorial image beyond that of a simple reproduction. The filming techniques with great panoramic and travelling shots give a dynamic quality to the movement. With the external movement there is a corresponding internal movement. The camera's travels within the landscape are the equivalent of travels within an internal landscape. For Theo Angelopoulos, the limits between the two dimensions prove to be fluid, like time in his pictures. Space and time are the two basic constituents of his cinematic art.
The "long pauses", a characteristic that dates back to The Broadcast, developed into a stylistic rule that peaked in terms of Theo Angelopoulos's aesthetic sense in 1975's The Travelling Players. In this film, with transportation and mythology as vehicles, Theo Angelopoulos made a journey into the recent history of Greece, where his suggestive narrative extends to the politically and socially troubled 70s. The technical and structural characteristics of the work, such as the use of sequence-scenes, the theatrical cutting of his scenes, or the theory of Brechtian distancing, are the elements which allow him to interpret cinematic realism on new terms, to "invent" a cinematic style and to formulate a new trend in creating a spectacle.
Theo Angelopoulos The work of Theo Angelopoulos is a work in progress. His films do not end in a definitive sense. He recycles and recreates his materials and his themes. His self-referentialism reveals his conviction that things do not change; only seasons change and the way we look at them. In this spirit he entered the 80s where great changes were in the offing. The end of the collective dream and the fall of the ideologies, which Theo Angelopoulos treats in Alexander the Great, postpones any immediate contemplation of history.
He uses the certainty of the medium he knows so well, to encompass his personal dream and lets background history burden and torture his disillusioned heroes. The change of theme does not necessarily imply a change of technique with Theo Angelopoulos. He remains faithful to his style and to his options. He continues to lure us to the familiar and fluid places and times of his mythology, and he will continue to move events outside their frame. His signature, more poetic than ever, but steadily incompatible with current trends, will not for a single moment prove retrogressive.
Theo Angelopoulos is one of the few creative artist who manage to capture the pulse of life and of events, bear unerring witness to his times and be in advance of his times. In The Suspended Step of the Stork and in Ulysses' Gaze he showed how art can look farther than politics. The collapse of the socialist dream, the estrangement from life and the loss of values - burning problems of the times, were his main themes in recent years. The political instability which shook the Balkans where, instead of inspiration and vision, people suffered exile, refugee camps and insecurity, led Theo Angelopoulos to a more and more esoteric cinema. The countries lying between borders belong to the realm of a dream, situated on the other side of lastingness and on the same side as its dissolution. Perhaps the tongue has lost its ability to define this cross-border zone, but the lens of Theo Angelopoulos has perceived it, since he can always aim at the centre of the jewel of perdition, to stir up inertia and to envision a new utopia.
Irene Stathi
from Thessaloniki Film Festival Pages

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