- 3h 30min
The film gives a romanticized biography of Theodoros Kolokotronis, a Greek historical hero serving as a metaphor for Greece itself. Drawing upon a circular view of Greek history, the film pr... Read allThe film gives a romanticized biography of Theodoros Kolokotronis, a Greek historical hero serving as a metaphor for Greece itself. Drawing upon a circular view of Greek history, the film presents conflicting ideologies - primitive communism, anarchism, chiefdom or kingdom, perso... Read allThe film gives a romanticized biography of Theodoros Kolokotronis, a Greek historical hero serving as a metaphor for Greece itself. Drawing upon a circular view of Greek history, the film presents conflicting ideologies - primitive communism, anarchism, chiefdom or kingdom, personality cult - and shows the institutions of property and power in a bad light.
In 1999, as a young man with a minor in film studies, I took a chance, despite the mixed reviews, and rented Ulysses' Gaze. At the time, I was living with a friend who had a earned master's degree in ancient Macedonian history. He fell asleep about an hour into the film, but I stuck it out, hypnotized by the film's visual style and Harvey Keitel's performance. Ulysses' Gaze was unlike anything I had ever seen before. A few months later, I was fortunate enough to road-trip 250 miles to catch Eternity and a Day in a movie theater. I declared that film another masterpiece and well worth the travel expenses. I hungered to see more Angelopoulos films, but living in the rural Midwest my options were limited. I remember renting by mail VHS tapes of The Travelling Players and Landscape in the Mist from Video Library out of Pennsylvania. I liked both films, but did not connect to them as emotionally as I had Ulysses' Gaze or Eternity and a Day. Some time later, I bought an import DVD of Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow from Great Britain. It was another good, if not great, film from Angelopoulos.
Then came a long, dry spell. A decade passed. My love for art movies did not exactly expire but did wane somewhat due to being away from film classes and not keeping up with what was being released. Finally, a British company released all of Angelopoulos' films in DVD box sets. At the end of last year, I bought all three sets. Alexander the Great is the second film I have watched from the sets. Neither grabbed me.
I dismissed my reaction to Reconstruction as being the result of the film being a debut work, a filmmaker struggling to find his way in cinema. I approached Alexander the Great with high hopes. The story sounded intriguing and the film had won awards. Unfortunately, I found it to be a total bore.
The narrative concern Alexander, a peasant leader, who leads a kidnapping of British dignitaries. Alexander takes the hostages to a mountain village that is being ran as a commune. Italian anarchists hear about Alexander and the commune and join. Meanwhile, the Greek government is nervous, being pressured by the British government to return the hostages safe and sound. Alexander demands that all the peasants' fields be returned to them and that complete amnesty be granted to himself, his men, and the community. These demands, particularly the amnesty condition, upset the government. As the situation stalls, a rift begins to develop in the village. Alexander is a great leader but his power begins to run counter to the communal nature of the village.
Another reviewer compared Alexander the Great to 1900. Both films begin on January 1, 1900 and the theme of communal living runs through both. However, 1900 covers decades and is a more satisfying film. The main problem with Alexander the Great is length. There just is not enough here, in either scope or story, to justify the extended running time. After an hour, I gave up and began hitting the fast forward button. I doubt I could have gotten through the film any other way.
Questions arise now that I have watched and been disappointed by both Reconstruction and Alexander the Great. If I re-watched Ulysses' Gaze or Eternity and a Day would they still strike me as masterpieces? Have my film tastes changed significantly in the decade since I last watched an Angelopoulos' film or are Reconstruction and Alexander the Great just dull movies, missteps by a usually good director? I can't answer these. What I can say is that a viewer needs to approach Alexander the Great with a great deal of fortitude. It cannot be watched casually.
- Jul 10, 2013