Eternity & a Day

Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Eternity & a Day The title Eternity & a Day (Mia aioniotita kai mia mera, 1998) could well allude to the butt-killing tedium of the thing. It's a recipient of the Palm d'Or from Cannes, an award I would generally count on going to a great film, but in this case largely a misguided honor.

An aged poet (Bruno Ganz), nostalgic & very near the end of his life, encounters a street urchin (Achileas Skevis), an Albanian kid illegally in Greece. By chance he saves the boy from a gang of rough children, & again saves him from the immigrations police.

He takes the child to the Albanian border to help him reach his village. The border gate is a surreal affair beyond which is another world entirely, of war-ravaged hell. The horrified boy suddenly confesses, "I have no one!" & his village no longer exists.

Together they flee from the border guard, back to the car, down from the mountain, back into the heart of Greece.

In company of a child he can't possibly care for, the poet shares nostalgic memories & events which are only strange fantasies to the little refugee's mind. The poet vanishes into his own memories, with the child's purpose in the story totally put on hold.

The propriety of a geezer picking up some random urchin is never addressed. But if the viewer accepts that it's not perverse from word go, we are still left to wonder what purpose the kid serves in the geezer's story, which continues for the longest while as if there were no child.

Our dying hero & his ward encounter of the spirit of a Nineteenth Century poet (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), & the magic realism becomes not so much an added intrigue of the supernatural as it is just vague, nonsensical, & self-indulgent.

The central relationships of the film are simply never developed. The script seems mainly self-absored & self-pitying & perhaps dishonest since we're denied any understanding of why some unhappy geezer who no longer cares about anything but himself would need to pick up a street urchin to tell him a dull tale no ten-year-old could possibly want to hear.

Since we get no hint of a credible psychological or emotional reason to have picked up this child, I was left to assume the worst. When an old man starts telling a ten year old about the love of his life (Isabelle Renauld), that can't be good.

I'm an enormous Bruno Ganz fan & have loved just about everything I've ever seen him in. But Eternity & a Day is in so many ways an accidentally hateful movie, & most certainly a boring one, even admitting that it is often visually superb. If I were to take this story as an autobiographical fiction with the poet representing the director, I would learn mainly two things: First, he's an egotist with no room in a story for more than himself. And second, never leave him alone with a kid.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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