ETERNITY AND A DAY Send This Review to a Friend
Director Theo Angelopoulos's pacing is so slow it makes snails seem like Olympic runners. But there's method in his meditation and 'Eternity and a Day" becomes a hypnotic experience for those of us with patience. Alexandre, played by Bruno Ganz, is a Greek writer who has a terminal illness. He leaves his seaside home in Thessaloniki to be hospitalized, but he's really leaving on a metaphorical journey to death, and the film encompasses his reflections on his life and work. His wanderings to familiar places mesh with his memories, all captured reverentially by the mesmerizing cinematography of Girgos Arvanitis and Andreas Sinanos.
Alexandre's deceased wife materializes in his mind and we see the couple in their youth. The haunting visuals are reinforced by the sounds of the sea, the ships, the street, the buses, the cars. Through daylight and darkness the director leads us through the maze of Alexandre's thoughts as he inches toward eternity. En route he befriends an illegal immigrant, an eight-year-old boy, who is a refugee from Albania, and the strange bond that develops symbolizes the leaving of life by Alexandre and the bestowing of hope for the future upon the young, troubled stranger.
Undoubtedly Angelopoulos could be more compact. There are a few times when the film seems to reach a natural ending only to continue. But by succumbing to his terms and giving ourselves over completely to this unusual filmmaker we can enjoy an unusual esthetic experience. We can appreciate the muted, pensive performance of Ganz, who lends authority and solemnity to a man whose doom evokes universal themes about the meaning of life and coming to peaceful terms with mortality. A Merchant Ivory Films and Artistic License Films release.