Afilm that Greek war drama, Theo Angelepoulous’ Ulysses’Gaze (ToVlemma tou Odyssea ),(1995)is about both material and spiritual destruction after the World WarII.
Angelospouslos isone of the most popular succesful director of the Greek cinema. Thefilm has important stars such as ErlandJosephson asIvo Levy Maia Morgenstern as woman in A’s home town (Penelope), Kali(Calypso), widow (Circe), Naomi (Nausicaa), and HarveyKeitelasA.It is perfectly complementedby a somber, brooding musical score byEleni Karaindrou.As Ivo Levy (ErlandJosephson)says” The first thing God created was the journey ” it is based on astory of a journey of the star Harvey Keitel who is a Greek moviedirector named “A,” that returns to his roots 35 years afterleaving for America, across the Balkan, Skopje,Albania, Koritsa, Plovdiv, Constanza, Belgrade and Sarajevo,for the sake offind three undeveloped reels shot by the Manakis brothers, two early20th century Greek filmmakers who captured crucial, historicalchanges within the Balkans through cinema.
The title of the filmrefers to Greek epic Odysses, seeing A as a modern Homer and audincewill ‘gaze’ to this long and difficult journey. Thence; Ulysses’Gaze is great visual and poetic dimension, colligating myth withhistory and perfect reflection of the Balkans in the 20th century. Itbrings the audience to a voyage that back and forth through thetime.
Thanks to Angelopoulos’ affective use of a long take style,historical events and their consequences, emotional depression arereflected in a slowly and an excellent way. Though,at the first sight,it is sensed it is just a journeyof A throught the Balkans, it is intangible journey of the Balkans,reflectingthe conditions of thatcountriesafter the Word War II, its consequences and how people fall intodesperate, sad and alone situtations,political and social destruction of the Balkansinterms ofAngelopouslos’use of longtake, colours and low-key lighting and intensescorce by Eleni Karaindrou. Thenarratorbringsthe storyline together with the whole mise-en-scene. Withthe narrater, we make time travel between Manakis brothers’ threereels and A’ journey.
In the opening scene, firstly,we witness daily life of people in the Balkans then go forward topresent, the scene which threemen, Yanakis,Yanakis’assistant andAare seen andYanakis’ assistant istalking about the possibility of undevelopment three reel of Manakisbrothers, giving clue that what will be film about, then the camerapans left and tracks backward, seeing the man dies and the other manmoves to the rights, meanwhile, camera follows him that is called”unmotivatedmovement”. Headliner,A who appears about fourty yers, is seen, he is moving and again thecamera follows him, his last word in the opening scene is “ajourney”. Theship’s horn is heard, he looks deeply to ship with sorrowful melodyin the background and the camera tracks forward directly to the shipwhich is called “dolly”thenthe ship starts to sail and the camera remains stable, an example for”longtake”.Consideringthe the use of long take in the opening scene, e xpressing his deepyearn to home, life and demand to expose the undeveloped reels whichdisplaysthe past of the Balkans, isahope about the future and hope for the people ruined by the war,politics,ideologies. Finally, after that scene, A’s journay literally begins. Inthe first sequences,in Florina,politicaland social conflicts and ideological distinction are demonstrated.
Thereare lotsof poeple inthestreet, standing still under the rain with their umbrellas,the camera pans to right, meanwhile, the voices are coming fromsomewhere but sources can not be seen, that is called “nondiegecticsound”.People are just listening the movie but can not watch itprobably it is forbidden in that time. Thesceneshifts to frame in whichpolice separating demonstrators with torches, and other people withumbrellas.
Angelopouslosuses his dominant technique that long takes and long shots, creatinga possible way to explicate and interprete his perspective throughtthe film and prompts the audience to observe and think deeply inevery aspects. He shots almost every significant and dramatic scenesin long shots. By doing that, the alienation and misery of theconsequences of the war laid down in the purpose of the film. His aimof use that is constructing uninterrupted integrity in whichtransition from present to his memories. Angelopouslosstrews a lots of great and effective scenes to reflects the mood ofthe film which means also the atmosphere of the Balkans, sadnees,aloneless and desperate. Atthe border, A runs across an elder Albain woman who falls apart fromher sister 47 years after the civil war in Albania, she requests toride her to hometown. While they are tripping, the camera goes withthe tax ineyel level shot, refugeeare seen, walking on the empty roads with their bagajes maybe try tofind a shelter that another detail, showing conditions of people inthe Balkans in 1990’s. Then they finally arrive toKorytsaand the woman get off from taxi in desolate center of the city, thecamera tranks backward, moving away from her in long take shot,mixing with sorrowful soundtrack.
Angelepouslosavoids empathic close-ups that would give the impression of anidentification with the character, He does not give the impression ofan inner life, of a hidden reality of emotions, The camera is alwaysset at deep focus, with almost parallel focalisations, replacing thusmultiple shots with multiple perspectives. Thecamera tracksbackward,the completely empty and deserted streets draw the attention,externalizing the alienation and solitude of the Albanian women. Then the scene is cut and shifts to the other, two-shot of A andthe driver, man pulls over and they start to talk about the situationof Greece, the driver says ” Do you know something ? Greece isdying. The medium shot tothe driver, standing up and climbing a stone, the camera tilts up,shots from the back of the men, creating a picture that a man standsin foggy and dark place just like trying to oppose the all strugglesand he says ” Hey! Nature, you’re alone ? I’m alone as much asyou.” And continuening as ” It is the end of road.” Just likealmost every person in the Balkans, he loses his hope and is allalone. Angelepouslosuses the colors to express his idea and creates the atmosphere of thefilm and feelings. Just like in that scene, the weather is the snowyand misty and and the colors are used to make the audience feelmelancholic.
With these gloomy scenes, Angelepoulous tries todemonstrates the first proofs that devastating way of the war. Alsouse of colors like grey black and white in almost entire film andalso the use of lighting, mostly low-key lightclarifies his perspective to the story and his reflecting to theaudience. The colours of the night that we see in the early scenesset in Greece are gradually opening up to the gloomy atmosphere inAlbania, claustrophobic scenes in Skopje, the soft and gentle coloursof his childhood in Romania until they are filled with cosmic chaosin the majestic scene of the statue of Lenin in the Danube. Cold andwarm colours are used interchangeably in the scenes in Sarajevo,until the reality of death destroys all colours in the mist.
Theviewer sees the inner psychic unfolding of the collective adventurein a set of non-verbal signs.Anotherscene begins with the eye-level and two-shot to medium close-up of Aand woman who has short curly hair, glasses, brown trencoat, achain-smoking romantic redolent of the French New Waveplayedby MaiaMorgenstern. Theymeets at the Belgrade Film Archive and A ask for help for findingthree reels. Theyare travelling with the train from Albania to Skopje by the way mantalking her about his purpose.
Later, the woman get off the train, Astands on the entrance of the train, continuing to talk then thetrain starts to move and the camera follows it and pans to right,creating “undercranking”. Ina sequence shot of more than 10 minutes, the longest and mostritually meaningful of the whole film, we will observe to the rhythmof the music and dance the post-war years. Thesequences follow the other dramatic and memorable scene. The camerapans to left, a woman appears who A calls her “Mom”. Thewoman holds his hand like a child.
Theytravelling together by train and the scene shifts and they finallyarrive the family house Costanza, inthe background, the soundof the procommunist partizans isheard from the street. Ais seen as a child, understanding that it’s flashblack and backthrough time- blending present and memory, slipping smoothly anddisconcertingly into the past, It is A’s family house in NewYear’s 1945. They waiting for the return of A’s father, aprisoner in a German concentration camp.
The eye-level master shot ofthe people in the saloon, finally the father comes , A finally meetshis father, family. They are dancing accompanied with a joyful sing.We observe to the rhythm of the music and the the dance.
Then themusic becomes sorrowful and the celebration is cut short by thearrival of members from the People’s Confiscation Committee (PCC),who arrest A.’s uncle, Langilos.While he is going, he says “1948brings happiness to all of you” and it is understand that wesuddenly go forward in the time.
The dancing resumes, the frame iscut by returning of PCC members to confiscate the family’sproperty, then a man wants to take a family picture to celebrate 1950New Year. In thebackground, the sounds of communist partizan heard, giving clue thatfirstthe establishment of communism, then the purges and Stalinistseizures and finally, in 1950, the authorisation for Greek, Jewishand Armenian families, the main minorities scattered through the oldOttoman territories, to emigrate.A,who has been off-screen for the last section of this long take,returns to the frame as his childhood self and the camera zooms uponhis face. A wakes up and understands it was a dream. The long shotexternalizeshis yearn to his childhood, old happy days with his family withoutgrief, sadness, solitude and thinking the state of his country. Hisfinner feelings such disconnectin, alienation, distance, nostalgiaare reflected with the long take of New Year Scene. Along the journey, A run acrossseveral women, all of them played by MaiaMorgenstern; inseveral sequences, show up in different characters such aswoman .awidow, a mother, a chain-smoking romantic redolent of the French NewWave.
Theremust be a meaning under the Angelopouslos’s exceptionalpreference. Itcan be observed in the scene that afterthe the protagonist backs to present, he and Mia go to port tocontinue his journey, after learning three reel shot are in Belgrade.A and Mia make their farewell and A starts to cry. When Mia asks thereason, he says ” I cry because I can not love you. ” Thatdialogue reflects his emotional depression and disappearence of love.Besides, the scene can be interpreted in a different way that MaiaMorgenstern is shown as adifferent charactersunlike before,as mentioned, andeach of them meet with Aand hasconnection and relationship withhim butall of them fall apart from him. MAybehe loses someone who lovedbefore the war and likens every woman figure to her.
Deprivation and sorrow caused by war, is again indicated. Thedialogue actually taken from Odysses of Homer. Ulysses, who remainedin Kalipso for seven years, did not love Kalipso and always thoughtof Penelope ,thence, he always went to the beach and crying. Thescene in which has so many meaning, shows the Angelepouslos use ofcolligating myth with history and perfect reflection of thepsychological states of people in the Balkans. Besidesthe emotional depression, the film also reflectspolitical demolition of the Balkan countries due to the World War IIand Balkan Wars.
TheVladamir Lenin’s statue is the most power and impressive scene toreveal that.In the following port scene, long take of Vladamir Lenin’s statueis observed. The the camera focuses it and titls from the ground tothe top of the crane,removing the statu of Lenin’ head.
Almost 30 seconds, moving of theLenin statue is seen that it is symbol and has a powerful meaning onit. The war and political messages of Angelepouslos lays under it.Then A gets on ship in which Lenin statue is,it starts to sailing and the camera tracksforward to the ship. Thissequence is also a long take inwhichpeopleat the banks of the river follow the ship, running and making thesign of the cross.
Itis known that according to Cristian faith, the cross is taken afterthe deaths. Forthis reason, that scene is like a funeral and demonstrates it is theend of the revolution and ruin of the Balkans inthe 20th century.Thesequence is the symbol of the dead of socialism.Observingthe political theme inwhich the sounds of strings are dominant, softly blends with,andbecomes a living part of what we see: the fragments of the statue;the flowing river;the sailing ship; the running people following theship (who,with their detached looks and their queer gestures recallthe chorus members in Greek tragedy). We observe all this from aboveand in a long-shot.. At the arrival in Belgrade, with the turningmovement of the camera we can go deep into Lenin’s”stony” gazeand finger, both directed at some uncertain point in the sky.
Lenin’sfinger point out the direction of A’s long journey.WhenA arrives to …. , he meets his friend and they keep going to searchfor the three reel. With the frustation of can’t finding them, theygo to a bar. Medium close of two men drinking and toast to theirlosses, memorialize their friend, woeful music in the background.With that sorrowful scene, the seperation, losses and gried caused bythe war, are again emphasize in the long shot. “” Ameets a womanina black dress cover-up his body ( Mia ) who stays away from her homeand decide to go … secretly over the river in dark night.
The longtake of voyage from the night to other day, they arrive to her home.The widow encounter the destroyed home and understandsher husband isdead andscreams, cries sadly. A is off-screen, the camera zooms her face,reflecting her grief and shock. The next morning, A wakes up naked inher house, the camera pans left, showing the woman washing clothes,singing a sorrowful song, the she comes back to house put out herhusband’s clothes fromcrate and givethem to A. In sequences of long take, we witness the grief andaloneless of the war widow. She loses her home, her husband, her lifein a way. She tries to fillsemptiness, increase her anguish even with a stranger. Afinally arrives his last station of the journey, Sarajeovo, ruinedcity.
Somany destoreyed houses, fire, smoke are seen in the first scene. Abegins to run in the empty streets and the camera follows him. Heis seem like does not know what to do. Hetries to ask people something but nobody listen him just runingn totheir home. The extreme long shot ofA whilehe stops,the camera tracksbackward, showinghis despair in the street all alone. Angelopousloscutsthe scene and the camera ans slightly to left, long shot of theruined house. By the long shot, Angelepouslos againunderlinethe impressive frame. Thescene is cut, A enters a hole that obviously Sarajevo Film Archive,also in ruins, hearing the sounds of bombs and guns.
The camera pansto left with A and a boy is seen. He is scared to realize someone iscoming. A says that he is looking for someone called ” Ivo Levy “.The scene is cut, Afinally finds Ivo Levy (ErlandJosephson)whilehe just tries to explain his purpose, electricity goes off ,the scene becomes dark, alarmstars to ring. Itis understood that something going wrong.IvoLevy says ” Let’s get out from here right now ” and everyonestarst to escape in the darkness. Thenext scene, while A and Levy are running, the sound of a bomb isheard again.
Theybreathlessly stop in front of the burned truck. “Welcometo Sarajevo” saysLevy. Thecamera tranks forward, zooms to them while Levy is talking aboutdangerof A journey. Thescene is cut and they arrive Levy’s place and a new figure appears,the daughterof Levy,Naomi (MaiaMorgenstern ).She looking for her father to go back home before the sirens blow.While A and her dialogue is continuing,she say ” Your face seems like familiar. ” , with that speechAngelopouslos underline the reason why almost every female characterplayed by same star due to the fact that women are reminiscent ofsomeone he lost a long time ago. Then,A get out from a hole under the street, the camera pans left with Aand suddenlyanexplosion is heaard, thecamera cranes up, showing otomobiles, houses, everything is on fire.
The sequence follows one of the dramaticframe, themaster shot of mentallyill people come out in the street. The camera tracks forward, theylook at the dead peoplein the street and walk around unaware of anything. There is nobodyexceptinsane people surroundedby disaster.
Agoes back and Levy gives the good new that hefinally hasdiscovered the formula to develop the three film reels.Forthe fist, A is seem happy, he eventually reach his aim after a verylong and diffucult journey. ” Inthat city, fog is the best friend of man because it is the only timethe city gets back the normal almostlike it used to be,thespiders have to lead of …, foggy days are the feastdays.
“The stunnigspeech reflect hopelessnessofthe people in Sarajevo. Hearingfootstepsand the music of the youth orchestra signal the welcome relief of thefog that descends on Sarajevo, shielding its citizens from theomnipresent threat of snipers. Theochestramade up by Serbians, Croatians and Muslims performs Eleni Karaindrou,displayes that all people shall be unity to bring peace in theircountry Thenext scene opens in foggy andgloomy atmosphere with powerful soundtrack. The camera cranes up,showing the orchestra of children. The frame is symbol of people’shope for the future.Inthe next scene,Angelopouslosdisplays mourn of Levy’sfamily whoarekilled by snipers in “foggy day”. Theirhope “fog” brings their death. Coldand warm colours are used interchangeably in the scenes in Sarajevo,until the reality of death destroys all colours in the mist.
Ulysses’Gazeends with his soliloquy of grief. Areaches to the purpose of journey,however;hewitness the pain, sorrow, somberness,political and social decline of the 20thcentury Balkans. Asa conclusion, Angelopouslos’Ulysses’Gazeunable us to accompany the director A’s journey for searching threereel film of Manakis brothers.With that journey, Angelepouslos intendto externalize the consequences of the war, painand sorrow of the people in 20th century the Balkans byusing long takes and long shots.
Herefrains from close-upsto exact moments and scenes that distinctly express the inner feelingof the characters and the hidden emotions, instead thecamera is always setsat deep focus, with almost parallel focalisations, replacing thusmultiple shots with multiple perspectives, tryingto reflect it deeper byaidof intense score of Eleni Karaindrou.Hemakes use of sequence shots or long takes distant from the subject toobserve characters, landscapes from all posibble angles.Also using dark colors, low-key lighting reflectswoeful and gloomy atmosphere of thefilmAngelopoulos’Ulysses’Gazedealswith many issues, such as: borders between countries and immigration;the social deconstruction and effectsontheBalkans after theWorld War II and Civil War; and political conflictsin the Balkan region. Thefilm alsoexploresthe gloomyliving condition of ordinary people under theconsequences of the war.
Thefilm give an opportunity to ‘gaze’and make a journey between present and past with A’s memories andManakis Brothers’ reel films. Angelopouslos’Ulysses’ Gaze is a masterpiece, combinessomany issues physicaland psychological destruction,communications gap between people,fragmentation of policiy and social structure.