46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5 Stars for a beautiful, transcendent film... 1 Star for New Yorker's DVD transfer,
This review is from: Eternity and a Day (DVD)
This film doesn't need me as an advocate. It won the 1998 Palme d'Or and deservedly so. It is a beautiful, meditative, thought-provoking film. Like the Amazon editorial indicated, it is akin to Bergman's "Wild Strawberries," and Kurosawa's "Ikiru." Like them, at its centre is an old man, at the end of his life, looking back, trying to find some meaning to it all. Here is a man, who for all his life has been absorbed by two things, himself and his work. He coasts through life not really relating to those nearest and dearest to him. Now at the end of his life, he opens a letter from his long-dead wife; a letter which speaks of her love for him and recounts what for her was a very special day, but which for him, was just another day which slipped away without much thought. As he reads the letter, he relives that "perfect" day; one that meant so much to his wife but to which he himself was an almost absent participant. He tries to make amends for his life-long distancing and aloofness by trying to help a little Albanian runaway. But in the end, it is too little too late.
In the word-game he plays with the Albanian child, the boy brings him three words which actually make up the central themes of the film. The first word, "Korfulamu," refers to the tender love between mother and child; the second, "Xenitis," refers to being in exile, being a stranger or an outsider; and the third word, "Argathini," means late in the night, or simply too late. He chants these words repeatedly at the end of the film. For these words encapsulate his life. And they encapsulate the themes of this haunting film. But Angelopulos makes clear it is not a pessimistic film. In the final scene before he enters the Hospital to die, he asks the memory of his wife, "How long does Tomorrow last?" and she replies, "An Eternity and a Day." In the end, you have the choice. However short your time, you can make even the slightest act, the most significant; even the briefest moment last forever.
Sadly this film will not appeal to most Americans. Like the previous reviewer has put it so succinctly, most will see it as "excruciatingly slow" and "boring". I also liked the way another reviewer described how its briefest shots are "longer than the longest shots in most Hollywood movies". It is languid. It is not meant to be hurried through. It is an "art-film" and if anything, it is visual poetry. It does require some maturity and will appeal to those who have reached a stage where they can look back and ponder. Give it the chance and you will be rewarded.
Alas, New Yorker Video continues its tradition of shoddy DVD transfers. The print is exceedingly dark. The picture is extremely soft, at points blurry. Nicks, scratches and dirt specks abound. The film is presented in its original 1.66:1 widescreen, letterboxed into a 4:3 frame. It has not been enhanced for widescreen TV. We are given the original Greek 2.0 Dolby Surround track. Sound is serviceable. Optional English subtitles are provided. The Extras are surprisingly very good. The highlight is a 22-minute introduction by Andrew Horton, Professor of Film Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He talks of the film in relation to Homer's Odyssey, Angelopulos' visual style, postmodernism and Angelopulos' standing in the history of Cinema. There is a 10-minute "Analysis of a shot," made for French TV, in which Angelopulos himself talks about his shooting style. This is in French with optional English subtitles. Finally there is a collection of Greek poetry from Solomos, Seferis and Cavafy, all in English translations. Solomos is the poet featured in the fantasy sequences and whose poem, the film's protagonist spent his whole life trying to complete. There is also an 8-page foldout featuring an informative interview with Angelopulos. However, the film itself deserves a much better transfer. Hopefully Criterion can release it someday, suitably restored, so it can stand alongside their lovely restorations of the Bergman and Kurosawa classics to which it has been compared.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 23, 2013, 12:20:32 AM PST
Wendy Ice says:
Thanks so much for this review!
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2015, 4:25:13 PM PST
Kytka Jezek says:
Yes indeed - a wonderful review!
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