November always begins with a smile on my face since on the 1st I celebrate my name day. Since orthodoxy is the main religion in Greece, there are various saints from whom we are being given our names and therefore we are used to celebrating our name the same day our saint (kind of protector) does so. My name «Arguro» (Ar-gi-ro) means silver in English, so you can also call me «Sylvia». On the contrary, Catholics celebrate only their birthday.
At this special day, I chose among other things to watch a film at the cinema, a Greek production by Pantelis Voulgaris. This director and screenwriter is widely known not only in Greece but also abroad for his dramas and the several awards he has won in the past for his movies «Nyfes», «I fanela me to “9”’» and «Happy day». His latest film «The last note» fuses both history and fiction. The story takes place in the concentration camp of Chaidari in Athens, Greece in 1944 where both Greek men and women are kept. Napoleon Soukatzidis is a young man who plays the role of the interpreter for the German commander Karl Fischer since he speaks German. He has been living and experiencing all this drama of torturing his compatriots all the while feeling unease with his co-prisoners. Suddenly, on May 1st it’s decided for all the 200 Greek men kept in the camp to be killed because of the Hellenic resistance’s trap against a German commander. Fischer gives to Napoleon the chance to escape from the execution by putting someone else in his place.
This movie provokes so many feelings.
- Anger, due to the imprisonment of so many innocent people.
- Sorrow, because none of them will be able to continue their life, and young men like Napoleon will never get married to their true loves that were waiting for them.
- Pride for these ancestors of ours who didn’t hesitate to face death standing bravely next to each other.
Now, a small historical catch-up. The World War II lasted from 1939 until 1945 between two military alliances: The Allies (the Soviet Union, USA, United Kingdom and China) and The Axis (Germany, Japan, and Italy). Both sides were fighting vigorously through those years for the dominance on earth leaving behind numerous historical incidents and millions of fatalities. In regards to Greece, things commenced with the invasion of the Italian army in Albania on 28th October 1940, resulting in the Greco-Italian war. A year and a half later, on April 6, 1941, the Germans invaded Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria all at the same time, since each one was controlling different regions of the former. After numerous battles and massacres, such as the Battle of Crete, the Massacre of Kalavryta, liberation came for Greece in 1944. That is the year which this movie takes place.
Another movie of Pantelis Voulgaris I suggest you watch is Little England (Mikra Anglia). The movie takes place in 1930, on the island of Andros, which at the time was very famous for its merchant shipping back then. Our story unfolds around a family in which the father is a captain and most of the time he is away from home. The oldest of the two daughters is getting married, after her mother’s desire. However, she doesn’t truly love him. Things become more complicated when the younger daughter gets married to the man that her sister is in love with.
You might remember learning, the phrase “Remember, remember the 5th of November” when starting your English lessons. This phrase not only is a joke but occurs from a historical incident back in 1605 when Guy Fawkes tried unsuccessfully to blow up the London’s Houses of Parliament in order to remove King James I from the throne and restore Britain’s Catholic monarchy. Today, it is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks as a holiday. This story has even inspired Alan Moore’s novel V for Vendetta, a movie which came out in 2006 starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving in the leading roles.
There’s nothing better than small cinemas or even alternative bars like my favorite one in Corfu, where I live. It is called Polytechno and its name is composed of the Greek words Poly (many) and Techno (art), so it combines many types of art in one place. This bar is a source of culture and music as it brings together alternative sounds or movies you might enjoy watching. It is sufficient to host parties, like the one on Halloween or Christmas Eve, while relaxing evenings with nice music and drinks are a standard. In addition, it has another room where live music concerts, bazaars and movie nights take place. Periodically, it collaborates with different institutes or producers and hosts a variety of movies. This month, in collaboration with Goethe Institute, it presented the movie «Berlin is in Germany», honoring the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.
Berlin is in Germany is a comedy and a drama at the same time. Martin Schulz is released from the Brandenburg penitentiary after 11 years of imprisonment. Being a democratic citizen, the adjustment in the “New Berlin” was quite difficult for him, since the Berlin wall had fallen the moment he went to prison thus putting him into a struggle a remake his life under the new circumstances.
A few words about the Berlin wall now,
World War II is over and the once powerful Germany is now separated in four zones governed by the winners of the war (USA, France, Great Britain and Russia). After a while, Germany was divided between the capitalist (West Germany) and the communist (East Germany). Thirteen years later in 1961, the Communist government began to build a barbed wire and concrete “Antifascistischer Schutzwall” whose purpose was to impede the invasion of Western “fascists” to the east side. This wall was 2 meters high, its length was up to 48 km and was even equipped with live wires and big spotlights to track down any possible move. On November 9, 1989, the head of the Communist Party announced that the citizens were free to cross any border and go wherever they wanted to. Many people started crossing the wall, but many others started chipping away the wall with hammers and picks. Even today, the Berlin Wall remains a historic and enduring symbol of the Cold War as it was the reason that several people died, went to prison or were separated from their families and their loved ones.
The famous band «Pink Floyd» released an album with the name «The Wall» in 1979, ten years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Roger Waters, the bassist of the band deeply disenchanted by the loss of his own father during World War II, created a fictional character called Pink Floyd who was a world-renowned rock star. Consequently, with the rest of the band (David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason) created an album – a masterpiece which is still one of the most imaginative albums in the history of rock music. This album contains 26 songs which showcase Pink’s life through isolation, catharsis, and self-destruction as well as the way the government ruled its citizens as pawns. Some of the most well- known songs on this album are Another brick in the wall P.1, Hey You and Comfortably Numb.
I had the chance and the great pleasure to go to Roger Waters’ concert in Athens in 2013 and listen to these marvelous songs live. It was a unique show. During the concert, a wall was first built while Roger Waters was singing and in the second part, the wall was destroyed. The Wall Live was Roger Waters’ big dream and as he declared, he was very glad about this performance in Greece.
In closing, we realize how history shapes our lives and how historical incidents have inspired many directors and artists to create art. World War II has certainly stigmatized the lives of millions and its impact is still evident on our planet.
“Make love not war”