Eternity and a day

Theodoros Angelopoulos

Greece, 1998



A “return” film:

to moments in which we didn’t wait

and we quickly surpassed

Images we didn’t have the time to enjoy,

Thoughts that remained incomplete,

words we have never uttered

because silence overtook them.


Α. 01:07:4001:09:00
Β. 01:58:0002:05:00


Activity No 1


  1. General Discussion

Observe closely the poster of the documentary and start brainstorming!

-What are your conclusions on the documentary’s subject matter? In your opinion, what is the main theme?

-Who are the main characters and what do you think their relationship is?

  1. Characters


This clip begins with Alexandros and Achilleas sitting on a bench. Try to describe each character’s personality in 5 words.

– In your opinion, what is the social position of each hero? How does their attire contribute to reaching certain conclusions?

– What is the mission that young Achilleas has undertaken? How is he trying to accomplish it?

– How would you describe the relationship between Alexandros and Achilleas? Try to recall and compare the answers you have given previously. (1 General Discussion) before you watch the excerpt.


– The hero enters a house. Is this place familiar to him? Does it seem he has been there before?

– Why did he choose to return to this place at that given moment? Was there any specific need that led him to return? Perhaps he is looking for something…

– His feelings seem to be mixed. After writing them down, try to refer to director’s choices in capturing them.

  1. Film Language

Excerpt A

– The cinema of Angelopoulos has been described as “the cinema of silence.” After spending some time observing the number of shots in this specific scene, try to explain this definition.

– How long is the scene you have just watched? Do you believe that this specific pace contributes in our understanding of the images and their narrative potential? If so, in which way is this done?

– In which parts of the scene the camera fails to remain steady? What is the type of this specific camera movement? Do you think that through this specific movement, the role of the camera is descriptive? Narrative? Or both?

– In which part of the shot are these two heroes placed? In which way and to what extend does this specific composition help us in “reading” their relationship?

-In many shots the camera follows the heroes very tightly. Why did the director make this choice?

Excerpt B

-In this specific sequence, the camera is observing Alexandros’ movement. Which technique is implemented in this venture? Write a paragraph where you will describe each movement of the main hero by following the narrative trope of the “omniscient narration.”

– Alexandros stands in front of the balcony window, when a subjective camera angle places the narrative outdoors. Where does this specific choice aim at?

– In your opinion, how many levels does the narrative time comprise? Which techniques does he use to accomplish each transition?

– Which narrative technique does the director use in order to represent Alexandros’ thoughts?

– Was there anything that surprised you, troubled you or annoyed you when watching the film?

  1. Historical and Social Context


– Read the plot summary (see General Guide). What are the living conditions of young Achilleas? Search for the historical and social circumstances that most probablt affected or became the source of inspiration for the film’s script.

– Try to draw an analogy between the director’s goals and motives in the contemporary social contaxt? In your opinion, which elements would be different?

– In her article “The Only True Revolution,” Paola Minucci writes “Alexandros, the central character, and Solomos the poet are both in search of a linguistic and, at the same time, an existential identity.” Look up for information on Dionysios Solomos’ poem The Free Besieged and write down the similarities and differences that you might trace between Alexandros and Dionysios Solomos.


Alexandros’s journey has been compared with Professor Borg’s journey in Ingmar Βergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957) in La Quinzaine Litteraire, Vol. 751, December 1998. Watch the following clip and spot the differences and similarities between the two auteurs (in terms of characters, plot, etc.). (00:19:12 – 00:22:00)


Step 1: Evaluate

Association: Second Grade of Highschool: Composition (Presentation/Review).
Step 1: Read the following reviews and fill in the table according to their main topic.

Once his pains begun being unbearable, Alexandros, the main hero of the film, decides to enter the hospital and die. So, he crosses for the last time the streets of the city of Thessaloniki and the highways of Macedonia region. It is a strange trip, full of incidental meetings and, as in the case of Professor Borg in the film Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman, is full of persistent ghosts. Yet, it is also an optimistic trip, while a poet explains the reason we have to buy words from time to time, and why we have to believe in the return of sweetness… The film An Eternity and a Day, along with its swirling on the rhythm of that nostalgic and persistent waltz by the composer Eleni Karaindrou, it doesn’t avoid the challenge of emotion. It is a treasure film as well, one of those that makes us cry with its ending.
La Quinzaine Litteraire, Vol. 751, December 1998

But Bruno Ganz’ portrayal of the terminally ill but also remarkably alive Alexander gets the better of any objections to cosmopolitan pandering to the gallery, market analysis and predictable casting. The question is if he has made something better since Tanner’s In the White City (Dans la ville blanche, 1983), or perhaps since Wenders’ Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin, 1987). Bruno Ganz is so phenomenal that I am not still sure if he was dubbed or if he is of Greek stock which could explain why his Greek flows so fluently. Here, this archetypal searcher in the genre of film art, the ultimate anti-hero, has managed to find a way himself into a sort of eternity: this is something Ganz will be remembered for. In an elegant device, Angelopoulos also allows him to look the same in the film’s two different time planes. The same classi- cal intellectual in his sombre but smart clothes – designed by Giorgio Armani, as mentioned before – and his inability to live in the present as well as in the past. A dying poet almost without company.
In the link to the Albanian fate, Eternity and a Day and several of An- gelopoulos later films, naturally strikes a resemblance to Gianni Amelio’s Lamerica (1994). Or rather the contrary: Amelio resembles Angelopoulos. In fact, compared to Angelopoulos, no one has depicted unsightly and in almost all respects non-cultural environments to the same extent – the end of high- ways, the insides of derelict houses, abandoned railways – with tools from highbrow culture. It is impossible to be more artistic in less artistic rooms. An- gelopoulos adds beautiful music and exquisite lines and a big portion of silence and the result is at the same time political and poetical, painfully tangible and freely hovering.
Mattias Berg, “How Long Is Tomorrow” Translation from Swedish: Ann-Sofie & Ulf Gyllenhak Filmcritic, Filmkunst Publication, Yearbook 1999-2000, Gothenburg

The cinematic art of Angelopoulos is a poetic one and has been born from a certain point of view and a certain way of perception of the presentation of the world of details of being, and the impact they have on conscience. Its power is based on the fact that it can render not only the result of those glances and feelings, but it can also show a different capability of watching and feeling.
Michele Francesco Afferrante, “Un cinema d’interiorità” / “A Cinema of Interiority,” in AA.VV, Art, Life and Cinematic Representation, Rome: Εnte dello spettacolo, pontificio della cultura, 1999

Starting from an autobiographical need, the latest film by Angelopoulos looks like an open letter to his wife, to his daughters, to his friends. That is the motivating idea of the film, yet, beyond a certain moment, the film continues by itself. “The film guided me, I didn’t guide the film” the director states. The film is a dilemma between art and life, a passage next to life, and not through it. Nevertheless, the film carries a message of hope. Nothing gets lost –the past and the present meet in a common course of quest. Life as art is like a spiral – it continuously moves forward.
Paola Minucci, “The Only True Revolution,” Elephtherotypia, November 20, 1998

Other significant film sequences: Alexandros’ promenade at the beach, his poetic contemplation on existence which expended in many unfulfilled plans, in “blowing smoke,” everything is giving an unspeakable sense of bitterness and at the same time an ultimate desire for life. Alexandros reads Anna’s letter. The camera stands there, exploring his tired and exhausted face. A state of internal anxiety is quite tangible, mixed with nostalgia. We settle in the clouded space (of memory). Anna is in the frame, with her back turned to the spectator, watching the sea. The air blows her hair. She thinks of her unfulfilled love for Alexandros, of how insane has been for a pure feeling to fade.
Michele Francesco Afferrante, “Un cinema d’interiorità” / “A Cinema of Interiority,” in AA.VV, Art, Life and Cinematic Representation, Rome: Εnte dello spettacolo, pontificio della cultura, 1999


Technique Actors

Step 2: Evaluate

(Step 2)
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