Greece’s critically acclaimed and pre-eminent contemporary film director.

Greece’s pre-eminent contemporary film director has won major awards at Europe’s most prestigious international film festivals – Cannes’ Golden Palm (twice) and Grand Jury (runner up) prize as well as Venice Film Festival’s Gold and Silver Lions.

Thematically and stylistically, he is the country’s cinematic poet laureate, described as the modern Homer; he is the poet provocateur boldly re-telling the tragic history of Greece and the Balkans.

From the outset, his filmography revealed an original voice with a distinctive style. Many works revolve around exile and return, conflict, oppression, other more recent films such as Eternity and a Day, can also be read as allegories of the human condition.

Dispensing with traditional narrative devices, chronological structures, and linear dramatic development, Angelopoulos’ abstract film aesthetic divides audiences and critics. So whilst some rate him as one of cinema’s great masters (David Thomson counts him as one of the world’s greatest living directors in his book, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film); others find his films elusive, convoluted and inaccessible.

Angelopoulos refers to himself as a 'war child’, born during the Metaxas dictatorship, to a middle class merchant family. Personal tragedy and the political trauma that enveloped Greece and the Balkans during his formative years, have imbued much of his work with a tragic melancholy.

Angelopoulos attended the Sorbonne and later switched to prestigious French film school, IDHEC. But like many European filmmakers, his first professional forays into cinema involved writing about it, for left wing journal Dimoktatiki Allaghi.

Angelopoulos’ feature career began following the 1967 Greek military coup. He made his debut feature at age 35 and attracted critical notice at the Berlin film festival. Reconstruction (Anaparastassi, 1970), is a thriller about the implications of an inquiry into the murder of an immigrant by his wife and her lover.

His next focus was the exploration of contemporary Greek history in a trilogy: Days of 36 (Meres tou’), The Travelling Players (O Thiassos, 1975), and The Hunters (I Kynighi, 1977). Influences such as Antonioni’s slow long takes and reflective mood as well as Jancso’s 'one-reel-one-take’ technique are evident.

The first, a political thriller about murder in prison foreshadows national events, the imposition of a military political dictatorship, with radical use of screen space and off- screen sound.

The Travelling Players won the international critics (FIPRESCI) prize at Cannes. A tale of an acting troupe moving through Greece in the period of war and civil unrest between 1939 and 1952, it has been described by numerous critics as a masterpiece. 'Brecht crossed with Aeschylus and Mizoguchi" wrote one of America’s most eminent commentators, Chicago Tribune’s Michael Wilmington.

The four-hour drama in 80 shots features Angelopoulos’s stylistic trademarks: episodic structure, long takes, slow camera movements, 360-degree pans, minimal dialogue, a ponderous tone, fusion of past and present.

The last part of the trilogy examines the relationship between power, resistance and civil war in the years 1949-77.

In 1980 his artistic cachet rose with a Venice Golden Lion for Alexander the Great (O Megalexandros, 1980), which interweaves two favourite Angelopoulos subjects, history and myth, exposing the latter’s destruction as an ideology at a time of pervasive disillusionment.

A second trilogy – Voyage to Cythera (Taxidi Sta Kithira, 1983), The Beekeeper (O Melissokosmos, 1986), Landscape in the Mist (Topo Stin Omichli, 1988) – described as the 'Trilogy of Silence’, explores notions of borders and exile, as well as continuing disillusionment with democratic modern Greece.

Angelopoulos’s art reached its zenith in the mid-1990s with Ulysses’ Gaze (To vlema tou Odyssea, 1995) an odyssey in search of the roots of Balkan cinema. It’s a blend of history, mythology and aesthetics that won European Film of the Year and Cannes Grand Jury (runner up) prize. Angelopoulos didn’t mince words at his disappointment of not winning the ultimate prize.

Cannes Golden Palm winner, Eternity and Day (Mia Eoniotita Ke Mia Mera, 1998), is a study of the journey through past and present of an ageing writer whose last days are given special meaning by helping a homeless Albanian child. This film marked a departure in tone from earlier work: it is less angry, more reflective, and much more accessible.
 
The latest trilogy commencing with Weeping Meadow (To Livadi pou Dakryzel, 2004) set 1919–1949 begins with entry of the Red Army into Odessa and flight of Greek commander, ending with the civil war.

Its second instalment, Dust of Time (2008), screened at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival and depicts a long journey into historical events viewed from the perspective of an American director of Greek ancestry. Starring Bruno Ganz, Willem Dafoe, Michel Piccoli and Irene Jacob, the film contemplates the role of the artist in times of war and the power of art as defiance.

– Mary Colbert