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Days Of 36

Days Of 36

By Ben Nicholson • February 12th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 2/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: November 21st, 2011
Running time: 105 minutes
Certificae (UK): 15

Year of production: 1972
Country of origin: Greece
Original language: Greek with English subtitles

Director: Theodorus Angelopoulos
Writers: Theodorus Angelopoulos, Stratis Karras, Petros Markaris, Thanassis Valtinos

Cast: Vangelis Kazan, Kostas Pavlou and Thanos Grammenos

On 24 of January 2012, just a few weeks prior to this review going live, highly regarded Greek filmmaker Theodorus Angelopoulos was killed in a road accident whilst making his latest film at the age of 76.

The Other Sea was the third chapter of his unofficial trilogy which began in 2004 – we can only hope that enough of the film was shot and that it can be edited and posthumously released, completing the trilogy. The only film of Angelopoulos’ I had seen prior to his death was the first in this latest sequence, Trilogy: Weeping Meadow (2004), a sweeping and sombre piece lacking in the performances but making up for it with some truly beautiful cinematography that has stayed with me to this day.

There are also many more of his films regarded as masterpieces which I would like to see; The Travelling Players (1975), Ulysses Gaze (1995), and Eternity and a Day (1998) amongst others. Days of 36, Angelopoulos’ second feature film after his 1970 debut, Reconstruction, is an entirely different beast to his later film but has some interesting similarities both detrimentally and that work in its favour.

The film opens with a long wide take, already showing the director’s now trademark style, as a throng of workers rally in the centre of a factory of some sort awaiting a speech from a man we can only assume is a Trade Unionist or politician of some kind. The man is shot dead. We then see our central character of sorts, Sofianos (Kostas Pavlou), arrested for the murder and imprisoned.

Days of 36

Whilst in prison a government official, Kriezis, visits and Sofianos takes him hostage and the rest of the film plays out as the prison officials and government types try to decide how to proceed amid political upheaval and rioting in the prison.

Days of 36 should be considered something of a curiosity and I would recommend this more to cineastes wanting to complete the filmography of Angelopoulos rather than those just beginning discovery of him. It is interesting in that very little is explained at all and the film strays for vast periods into vaguely absurdist territory leaving the audience to essentially guess at what is actually happening.

It is very interesting to read other synopses of the plot (for instance this one on IMDb) as I can only assume that the writer is aware of events on which this might be based or has heard Angelopoulos fill in details.

There is definitely political consternation about whether or not to yield to Sofianos’ demands (although we don’t know what these are) between the left and right but this is mentioned in one scene rather than shown and all of the rest of the time is spent in the prison offices. Interestingly, we never see inside the cell so although Sofianos is essentially the central character, we don’t even really ever see his face.

The film is very removed from all the characters and in the majority of the scenes in which various officials consider how to react, these characters could well be substituted for one another with no detrimental effect on the plot. We are never introduced to Sofianos, what he wants, or what he is fighting for and so we are not asked to form our own opinion on the situation. Rather we watch as these nameless bureaucrats decide firstly to poison the prisoner – which they bungle – and then how to possible have him killed by a sniper.

Days of 36

Days of 36 is a clear indictment of the government and prison authority in the most superficial way and although the film is set in 1936, Angelopoulos was undoubtedly using this to critique the military junta (“The Regime of the Colonels”) ruling Greece at the time of the film being made.

As with the much later and much better film, Trilogy: Weeping Meadow, the performances leave a lot to be desired but as there is such little dialogue or emotion or even relative close-ups of the characters this would be difficult to improve. The cinematography however is exquisite and the major plus of watching the film at all. Some scenes are shot with brilliant ingenuity with the action occurring in one take whilst the camera moves around.

The scene in which Sofianos is arrested lasts four or five minutes and although the characters move around the woods and cars drive past, this all happens in one take thanks to the movement of that camera. Similarly, the climactic scene all happens as one camera pans, scanning the prison, revealing movement through the changes since its last revolution. It is not beautiful in the same was his later films are regarded to be, but you can easily see a very interesting director trying to use the medium in unusual ways and experimenting with his style.

If the story and script had been up to more this could have been a really compelling piece, but as it is it more a show of potential and something for the completists.

Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson

Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.

His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.

Ben has his own film site, ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE, and you can follow him on Twitter @BRNicholson.

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