The personal drama of a woman's struggles to hold her family together is seamlessly combined with the epic sweep of a country's turbulent history. In 1917, refugees fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia arrive in Greece. A family has brought a young girl who had been orphaned in the conflict. They find a harsh life in a desolate land. From the start, the girl, Eleni, becomes close to her new brother Alexis; eventually, they become romantically involved. Eleni bears their twins, who are given up by Eleni's adopted mother. After Alexis' mother dies, her husband Spyros (Vasilis Kolovos) arranges his own marriage to Eleni. Eleni (Alexandra Aidini) and Alexis (Nikos Poursanidis) flee their village so that they can remain together. Feeling disgraced, Spyros pursues them.
Eleni and Alexis try to reunite with their sons, who are now with an adopted family, and dream emigrating to the United States for a better life--but they are continually victimized. Angelopoulos depicts the opposing political factions throughout the decades as well as World War II and the Greek Civil War. Only the uniforms change.
Angelopoulos' directorial style avoids close-ups to focus instead on the characters' family and group relationships as well as on their reactions to the forces of history. The director's circular camera movements give a panoramic view of Greek life. This film avoids the excessively long takes that diluted the effectiveness of some of Angelopoulos' earlier efforts. Throughout, cinematographer Andreas Simanos has shot striking scenes, both of the stark landscapes and crowded urban areas. Particularly memorable are scenes of families leaving their flooded village. Angelopoulos continually maintains a sensitivity to the hardships of Eleni and her loved ones. The strong cast is dominated by the extremely affecting lead performance of Aidini. Angelopoulos has given his modern story the devastating emotional impact and resonance of a classic Greek tragedy. Starring Alexandra Aidini, Nikos Poursanidis, Giorgos Armenis and Vasilis Kolovos. Directed by Theo Angelopoulos. Written by Theo Angelopoulos, Tonio Guerra, Petros Markaris and Giorgio Silvagni. Produced by Phoebe Economopoulos. A New Yorker release. Drama. Greek-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 168 min