Stella

Cacoyannis Michalis

Greece, 1955

TEACHER GUIDE

DETAILS

Drama

ISSUES

• Tradition version modernity.
• Newly emerging populist identity.
• Patriarchal code: honor – virtue.
• Tragedy: values, guilt, morality, law.
• The female and modernity’s allegory.

THE FILM

INTRODUCTION:
The Teacher Guide consists of useful notes, bibliographical information and approaches to film, and is supposed to function in support of the activities designed for the proposed film. Key information are provided on the historical and social context within which the film was produced.
This will enable a better understanding of the creators’ motivations and intentions by students. The formative elements of the genre, the
film belongs to, are presented and accompanied by film reviews. All material is designed to broaden teaching approach within school and to renegotiate learning process through use of film.
TIPS:
• Before proceeding to the activities proposed, please refer to Glossary section.
• Activity 1 may be linked to Literature, Grade ASenior High School. The first set of questions will help students identify the common characteristics between literature and film. For instance, literary heroes turning into film characters, the expressive means of language (metaphors, similes etc.) rendered through camera movement, space and time lapses as handled by editing process and
many other. The third set of questions links film with Gender in Literature.
• Activity 2 may be combined with Essay Writing, Grade B-Senior High School (Essay Writing textbook p. 157-170, 261), Chapter: Presentation –
Criticism – Summary. Reading and analyzing film reviews may help students improve their writing.
• Activity 3 may start with improvisation in class and may even conclude with a short film production depending on the teacher’s aims, objectives and project duration. Students should explore the ways in which social behaviors are constructed at present.
• The Activities are designed to serve the educational needs of diverse student groups and are flexible in terms of implementation duration.

«Come my love and dance till tomorrow morning.»
After the end of German occupation and the Greek Civil War (1949), Greek cinema attempts to establish a distinct and recognizable identity. Melodramas and slapstick comedies compose what is to be understood as the local Greek cinema production. Comedies of the time, made by Giorgos Tzavellas, Ntinos Dimopoulos and Alekos Sakellarios, make audiences laugh and exorcise painful memories of the part.
Melodramas are seen as a form of escapism by Greek spectators who resort to them to dispel the hardships and turbulence of war period. The struggle for survival and the grave social injustices, prevalent themes of the genre, release tension and bring relief. It is within this context that Italian Neorealism is introduced in Greek film theaters.
Grigoris Grigoriou’s Bitter Bread and Greg Tallas’ Barefoot Battalion impress audiences in an indelible manner.
During the mid-50s, Stella and the The Ogre of Athens stir things up. Elements from ancient Greek drama and the emerging urban environment inform film narratives of the time. Main characters struggle to conform to progress while fighting with their own dramatic tensions and ideological burdens. Directors, such as Michalis Cacoyannis and Nikos Koundouros, attempt to carve their own distinct film narrative, which can be traced in a long-lived tradition.
It is within this context that Stella struggles to free herself from society’s moral codes. Disinterested in patriarchy’s concept of society and indigenous gender inequality, male pride and female virtue, she opposes marriage and all its traditional overtures. Employment represents for her a source of dignity and independence. Stella is captivating and emotional, rebellious and confident!

EXTRACTS

IAKOVOS KAMBANELLIS & MELINA HIS MUSE

Make use of the text here below before screening the film extract. This will familiarize students with Melina’s personality. The text may, also, be used in Activity 2 (Activities Guide) by Group A.
Melina Merkouri, delighted with the way Kambanellis had rendered Medea, asked him to write her part for the play she indented to stage in Rex the coming winter […]
In the Yacht Club’s Ball, which took place in July the 25th and was attended by royalty, Melina, spontaneously got up and moving towards the stage, in an impressive long-dress, she stood by the guitarist and leaving the one shoulder-off sang passionately a traditional, rebetiko song.
“She had missed Athens a lot, those nights, the outburst, the release of oneself through celebration, yearning, joy…”, says Kambanellis, while thinking of that particular night when the idea of the play, he was about to write for Melina in the following eight weeks, came to him. “She was a different Melina that night, or, to put it correctly,
she was too much of herself, of Melina….. There was no need to search elsewhere for the play. It was just in front of me.”
“The following days [..] Dimitris Horn and Elli Lambeti invited Niki and myself to their home. They asked me to bring the play. Cacoyannis was there [..] at the time we thought that Cacoyannis lost interest and felt sleepy. All of a sudden Takis (Horn) gets in touch to inform me that Cacoyannis wants to meet and propose that we film Stella [..] However, in our next meetings, he said that he couldn’t see Melina in the part, that they were incompatible,
her being an actress of the French School and him being favoring the English School….”
The producers’ objection reached Melina ears ….
Nobody can imagine the conversations that ensued: Melina: They cannot do that to me, it is treason!
Kambanellis: Surely, they cannot. Stella is you. The play is based on you, it was written for you…
Rena: Anti-cinematic, this is unheard of! Do not give it to them, Iakovos…If Melina doesn’t take the part…5
TEACHER GUIDE
Kambanellis: Melina will take the part. Anyway, I am, mainly, interested in the play. It is written as a theatrical play.
Melina: Theater… We are, now, talking about cinema. I would like to play Stella in cinema. I want it so much. I am so into it, do you get me?
Rena: If they do not choose you, they will be the ones missing out. You are photogenic and talented.
You have a great body, stunning legs and eyes….
Melina: …And a great mouth!…
A little longer and she would have burst into tears. Nevertheless, a few days later she was informed of the good news: She was to play Stella. In cinema. Filming was about to start.
Melina: And what about my mouth?
Cacoyannis: Forget about your mouth. Don’t think of it…… Your eyes. Your eyes are wonderful…. Your mouth, this wide mouth, together with your lustful eyes, will become the hallmarks of your film persona.
Melina: This means I can laugh?
Frida Bioubi
Melina – A godess with the devil inside
Terzo Books, Athens 1996

THE DIRECTOR REMEMBERS

The following extract is from an interview given by the director himself for the preface of Stella’s script. The information provided can be used in Activity 3 (Activities Guide) as a departure point for addressing the directors’ ability to overcome problems and unexpected obstacles emerging during filming.
[…] I cannot remember how Kambanelli’s play, Stella with the Red Gloves, got into my hands. I recall, however, identifying, in my imagination, Melina as my main female character.
[…] The frenzied, rainy, filming on October the 28th, couldn’t be repeated, as it involved a reallife military parade that provided us the thousands of extras we needed for the making of the scene.
My arrest by the authorities, almost, interrupted shooting. Doing close-ups of Kostas Kakavas, the intruding flag-bearer, the crew reached the Unknown Soldier where officials stood with the King at the middle. The cinematographer missed Kakavas leaning the flag in salute. I signaled him to take a few steps back in order to film it all over again. This resulted in the parade loosing its arrangement and looking like an harp. The shot was
filmed on the spot. Immediately, afterwards, I felt hands grabbing me by the shoulders and taking me to the police.
However, this was nothing compared to what was about to come: chilling weather, an outdated camera, rain, the cinematographer’s passion for Melina and other comic instances like the one where I filmed Fountas intruding a real-life, decisive football game between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. The actor intruded Panathinaikos’
field and forced the referees to interrupt the game once they became aware of the two footballs in the playing field. [..]

Michael Cacoyannis
Extracts from the preface of Stella’s script,
Kastaniotis Editions, 1960

ACTIVITIES

GENERAL GUIDE

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