An elegy to human destiny

The Athens Festival venue Pireos 260 witnessed heavy activity on Thursday last week, when internationally acclaimed actors Irene Jacob and Bruno Ganz, accompanied by more than 200 extras, participated in the filming of part of Theo Angelopoulos’s new feature film, «The Dust of Time.» The venue was off limits to the public to ensure actors and crew worked without any disruption. Following a number of necessary interventions, the former Tsaousoglou factory – and current «star» venue of the revamped Athens Festival under artistic director Giorgos Loukos – met the prerequisites for the shooting of a scene involving political refugees meeting in Tashkent in the mid-1950s. In the scene, Jacob and Ganz participate in the meeting as party members. The atmosphere is decidedly cold and impersonal. Similar «meetings» are signature Angelopoulos takes, reflecting the personal, ultimately melancholic relationships which Angelopoulos enjoys with history, time, wandering and the end of ideologies. Greek leg The Greek schedule of the international co-production was rather heavy last week: The Ministry of Tourism, the National Tourism Organization and Nova Digital Platform threw a reception in honor of the production and the actors at the Athens Hilton. The event was followed by two more days of shooting, Friday and Saturday, in the Alexandra Trianti Hall at the Athens Concert Hall, before the international production resumed its journey on to Rome, Berlin, Cologne and, possibly, the United States. (Due to ill health, Michel Piccoli did not make the planned trip to Athens for the production’s presentation.) In this second installment of a trilogy which began with «The Weeping Meadow,» Angelopoulos offers a poetic account of the last century and a visionary relationship with the current one, as seen through a love affair which challenges time. According to the director, this film is more than ever an «elegy to human destiny.» The story begins in 1953, the day of Stalin’s death. The script’s central focus is a woman, Eleni (Jacob), and two men (Ganz and Piccoli), both of whom she has loved and who have loved her back. Eleni is traveling in search of one them (Piccoli) while the other (Ganz) traces her footsteps wherever she goes. Ganz, a German Jew residing in the Soviet Union, having escaped a concentration camp, meets Eleni in Tashkent. They live together for a number of years, while the other man (Piccoli) is also present in Eleni’s life. A boy is born and is raised in Brooklyn. He becomes a director, filming his own life story – the role is interpreted by Willem Dafoe. Neither the film’s budget (set to exceed 8 million euros) nor the rough experience of filming in subzero temperatures in Russia seem to have bent the director’s desire for an epic, large-scale film in an era of digital ease. Co-producing «The Dust of Time» are Eurimages, the Greek Ministry of Culture, the Greek Film Center, ERT as well as Russia, Germany and Italy. Acting as sponsors are the Greek Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the National Bank of Greece, Theodoros and Gianna Angelopoulos and Nova, among others. A stellar international cast Irene Jacob: The well-bred Swiss actress who studied in London, Geneva and Paris, is identified with Krzysztof Kieslowski’s «La double vie de Veronique» (1991). Despite appearing in a variety of films (directed by Louis Malle, Jacque Rivette and Agnieszka Holland, among others), it was the Polish director and the mysterious Veronique which established her career. Jacob also starred in Kieslowski’s «Red,» part of the director’s color trilogy, starring alongside Jean-Louis Trintignant. Willem Dafoe: Little has been left unsaid regarding the 52-year-old American actor who has appeared in more than 60 films – from «Spider-Man» and «The English Patient» all the way to Lars von Trier’s «Manderlay» as well as films by David Cronenberg, Abel Ferrara, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone. In «The Dust of Time,» Dafoe interprets the role of Jacob’s son, a film director. In Athens, Dafoe worked alongside Greek actress Reni Pittaki. Bruno Ganz: Born in Zurich, the 67-year-old leading European actor began his career in theater. Several times voted actor of the year by authoritative theater publications, Ganz is particularly well-known for his performance in a 13-hour theater production of «Faust» as well as his extraordinary interpretation of Adolf Hitler in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s «The Downfall.» This is the second time Ganz has taken on a leading role in an Angelopoulos film, following his participation in «Eternity and a Day.» Michel Piccoli: Following his memorable performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 «Contempt,» the French actor subsequently participated in no fewer than 200 roles in films, not to mention theater plays. He has also made his debut as a director. «The Dust of Time» features cinematography by Andreas Sinanos and original music composed by long-time Angelopoulos collaborator Eleni Karaindrou.