Weeping Meadow has a classical painting’s look and an epic novel’s pace. The former astounds, the latter lags. Set in Greece during a cruelly difficult time in its history — the civil war and dictatorship of the 20s and 30s — the story unfurls like an old man’s minutely recounted reminiscence.
Eleni and Alexis are child refugees from Odessa who flee to Thessaloniki and despite being adopted siblings, fall in love. They sneak away on the verge of her marriage to another man and begin an epic struggle to survive their country’s descent into madness.
The inability of good intentions to make right what history has wronged is a gut-wrenching spectacle. The civil war that rips Greece in two pits Eleni’s two sons against one another. While a potentially stale cliché, in the hands of Angelopolous their battlefield meeting is quietly riveting.
What’s problematic is the scope of this impressive but frankly slow-moving spectacle. At nearly three hours, one will strain to maintain focus in the face of the labyrinthine plot twists. More than once a sort of contextual vertigo sets in, as the murkiness of time, place and significance leaves one feeling a bit lost. But when Angelopoulos seizes a moment, the imagery he creates has a sort of biblical resonance. In one memorable scene a group of black-clad women has gathered to hear the fate of their husbands and sons. Prodded by the military official’s news, they scatter in a frenzy of grief, like a hornet’s nest fanning out across the countryside.
It’s an elegy for a generation whose story for the most part has yellowed and cracked with age. The film is often devastating in its expressions of despair, but sadly, for most, it’s a cry that will probably go unheard.
Opens September 16