Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eternity and a Day

Theo Angelopoulos, 1998, 130m, Greece, Golden Palm ('98)

Alexandre, fifty-ish, a bearded poet, is terminally ill. I was attracted to the film by it's subject matter and to catch a glimpse of it's famous director.

Alexandre strikes a friendship with a vagrant Albanian boy, saving him from the clutches of the police and unsuccessfully tries to have him sent home. He wants to wind up his affairs and get admitted to a hospital. He visits his daughter, who is unable to take charge of his dog. He also learns with shock that a beloved family house on the sea has been sold and due for demolition. He meets his demented mother. The film is a series of dreams, memories (mostly relating to his wife) and conversations.

This is a mere sentimental romance and fails to do the least bit of justice to the gravity of the theme of near impending death. The great poet does not seem to get beyond the picture card sea-scapes and the bygone romance with his estranged or deceased wife to the accompaniment of concertinas and violins and traditional dances.

One can only conclude that the jolt has failed to wake up Alexandre, and merely propelled him on a trip of nostalgic fancies. These are the rather waterish sentiments of the film-maker and not of a man confronted with the most profound phenomenon of existence. It has been said, "The most terrible things in the world are the pain of fire, the flashing of knives, and the shadow of death. Even horses and cattle fear death, how much more a man in his prime."

Contrasting to the open blue skies and expansive sea of the present film (as though the victim has transcended concerns about death), I am reminded of the shrieking reds of Cries and Whispers.  Wit  was another film to deal with terminal illness with great sensitivity. Kiarostami's A Taste of Cherry and Ramim Bahrani's Goodbye Solo are two movies (one by an Iranian and the other an Iranian-American director) which depict the grim melancholy determination of two meticulously crafted suicides.

In the present film, death becomes a matter almost of indifference-one more routine of existence rather than something transcendental and cataclysmic. To trivialize death is to trivialize life, of which it is the culmination and crown. And Hollywood seems to be on the way to being a more reliable brand label than Cannes.

Review by J Hoberman


Jack L said...

It does sound like a rather challenging subject to commit to film but after reading your review (and Nathanael's) I do want to see this one.

S. M. Rana said...

Thanks for your lightening speed comment. I have expressed my own disappointment as a fan of hard core cinema.

Nathanael Hood said...

Sorry to hear that you didn't like it. Oh well....differing opinions make the world go round.

S M Rana said...


Nathanael Hood said...


Ebert just quoted you on his twitter page!!

S. M. Rana said...

Thanks, so he did:


Nathanael Hood said... have NO IDEA how much I would give for Ebert to look at my work or quote me. If he ever did...I would LITERALLY print it out, frame it, and put it on my wall.

S. M. Rana said...

Actually, this was only a comment on his blog in which I put in what I think was an apt quotation. Here it is in toto:

Here is a conversation between the Tempter (Mephistocles) and the Buddha.

Long time have sons of men on earth to live.
Let the good man herein no trouble take.
As babe replete with milk, so let him act,
There is no present coming on of death.

Brief time have sons of men on earth to live.
Let the good man herein much trouble take.
Acting as were his turban all-ablaze.
There is no man to whom death cometh not.

Jack L said...

WOW, I'm not on the internet for a couple of days and look what I miss!!
Quoted by Roger Ebert himself, I think congratulations are in order!
Great work!

S M Rana said...

Well, I don't fully understand the full extent of my achievement, to have quoted something which the Great Man tweeted. But thanks anyway, your responses give me no less satisfaction.

JeanRZEJ said...

Angelopoulos is an amazing director, and it's a shame that people would start with Eternity and a Day. Even though I like it the least of his films that I have seen, I still have fond memories of it. Some of his other films are among the most amazing films I've ever seen, though, and it doesn't come anywhere close to them. If you have access to Landscape in the Mist I would encourage you to check that out. It is staggering, amazing, unforgettable, etc.

S. M. Rana said...


Maybe I'll try the film referred by you and give the director my second chance! Thanks for visiting!