Vale Theo Angelopoulos
The acclaimed Greek director Theo Angelopoulos – famed for his poetic and historical films – has died after a road accident at age 76 while shooting his latest film.
He was currently working on The Other Sea, a film about Greece’s financial crisis, when he was caught in a collision with a motorcycle whilst crossing the road.
Angelopoulos’ films were often retellings or allegories of Greek history, and he redefined techniques that would become his trademark – such as slow pans, long takes and tracking shots. The languid movements of his camera were intended to allow viewers to scrutinise the stories he presented them with, saying “By refusing to cut in the middle, I invite the spectator to better analyse the image I show him, and to focus, time and again, on the elements that he feels are the most important.”
Theo Angelopoulos was born on 27 April, 1935 and grew up in Athens, eventually studying law. He moved to France to continue studies, but dropped out to attend film school – soon becoming a film critic for a leftist newspaper.
After a first black and white film, Reconstruction (1970), he emerged onto the international film scene, with his first historical trilogy of films including Days of ’36 (1972), The Travelling Players (1975) and The Hunters (1977). In typical style, his film The Travelling Players had only 131 shots.
He returned a few years later with his “trilogy of silence”. The final film in the trilogy Ulysses’ Gaze (1995) stars Harvey Keitel as a Hollywood director who returns to Greece after exile. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, but Angelopoulos was disappointed that it hadn’t won the Palme d’Or. He told a shocked audience, “If this is what you have to give me, I have nothing to say,” before walking off stage.
It was a prize he would go on to win three years later, taking out the Palme d’Or for Eternity and a Day (1998) – a story told in flashbacks about a dying writer.
He is survived by his wife Phoebe and three daughters.
Take a moment to appreciate the work of an incredible man and read The Guardian’s obituary here.