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Stone Years

Although his work isn’t as well known outside Greece as it deserves to be, Pantelis Voulgaris has made some of his nation’s best films since the 1970s, including Anna’s Engagement (1973), Quiet Days in August (1991) and It’s a Long Road (1998). His work combines a lucid approach to Greek history and politics with a deep appreciation of how great events affect the emotional lives of ordinary people. The political melodrama Stone Years reveals all of Voulgaris’ strengths, right from its magnificent opening sequence set in a wood, where Eleni (Themis Bazaka) and Babis (Dimitris Katalifos) declare their love and discuss the future. The year is 1954, and they are two young communists whose political activism is to keep them apart for many years. Babis is sent to prison, and the couple aren’t able to consummate their affair until he is released in 1966. Eleni becomes pregnant but is herself arrested and sent to jail, where she gives birth to a son. Without ever straining for cheap emotional effect, the film concentrates on revealing the extraordinary inner strength and sense of dignity of the persecuted couple, who end up being married in prison and finally emerge to face a new world together after the fall of the military junta in 1974. The melodrama is kept firmly under control by Voulgaris’ highly disciplined visual style (the cinematography is by George Arvanitis, Angelopoulos’ cameraman), a very subtle performance by Bazaka, and a beautifully understated score by Stamatis Spanoudakis.
(1985. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 143 mins.)

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