Download Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging PDF

TitleFigures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging
PublisherUniversity of California Press
ISBN 139780520241978
CategoryArts - Film
File Size44.2 MB
Total Pages322
Table of Contents
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Page 161

4 . 1 Reconstruction (1970) : doorways providing multiple
frames for the action.

4 . 2 Reconstruction: figures in a landscape.

of the village's frustrating poverty. The film "reconstructs" the social pressures leading to

domestic infidelity and murder-a point underscored in a sequence showing journalists

circulating through town while we hear, as voice -over commentary, guest workers in Ger­
many explaining why they fled Greece.22

Reconstruction exploits several visual techniques typical of the 1960s "young cinemas."

Angelopoulos insists on shooting on location, confining his camera to cramped interiors
and providing glimpses of a tavern or bus terminal. The cinema verite quality, strength­

ened by the many handheld shots, links the film to the new waves of the 1960s. Still,
there are hints of the signature style to come. The average shot length (nineteen seconds) ,
although much shorter than that of any later Angelopoulos film, announces his reliance
on staging within the frame. The interiors are thickly packed, with doorways providing

pockets of space (Fig. 4.1 ) . Stillness and silence play central roles; the murderous lovers

stand panting over Kosta's body for what seems a very long time. The camera dwells on

landscapes, as a bus churns slowly through the mud or as the couple totter along a rain­

swept highway and trucks roar past them. The plot has time to linger on a quasi-abstract
shot of men dotted around a field, urinating during a bus stopover (Fig. 4 .2 ) .

The elliptical treatment of the murder in Reconstruction becomes a pervasive narra­

tional strategy in Days of '.J6. A political prisoner takes a hostage, and eventually the po­

lice raid his cell. But these central events occur offscreen, hidden by stone walls and cun­
ningly angled doorways, all the better to concentrate on the maneuverings of a corrupt

regime. Once again individual motives are minimized, with most shots presenting

groups of prisoners and officials. The film also pushes the long-take strategy much fur­
ther (the ASL is seventy-two seconds) , and long shots predominate so that the prison pro­

vides its own geometrical landscapes and spare choreography (Fig. 4.3 ) .
I t is , however, with The Travelling Players that the Angelopoulos look emerges most

fully. In a typical scene the actors' troupe walks from the beach and up a town street; af­

ter they have passed through the frame, the camera holds on the street, and the period

A N G E L O P O U L O S , O R M E L A N C H O L Y 1 4 7

Page 162

4. 3 Days of '.3 6 (1972) : the abstraction of the prison

4. 5 . . . and we follow one as they pass. The color shifts
slightly toward yellow.

4 .4 The Travelling Players (1975) : the shot starts in
November of 1952 . The traveling players walk from
the dock . . .

4. 6 The troupe moves on into the distance as . . .

shifts from November 1952 to winter of 1942 (Figs. 4 . The distant framing, the

lingering on an empty vista, and the flashback occurring within a single shot all became
hallmarks of Angelopoulos's style. With The Travelling Players, which has an average shot

length of ro5 seconds, Angelopoulos also confirmed his commitment to the very long
take as his primary stylistic vehicle.

Such shots rework familiar schemas in fresh ways . Nearly empty long shots had punc­

tuated Antonioni's 1960s films and Wim Wenders's Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick

( 1972) , but Angelopoulos builds entire, slowly developing scenes around them. Flash­
backs within a single shot were known in Hollywood (Caravan, 1937; Enchantment, 1948)

and European cinema (Miss Julie, 1951 ) . Yet as Angelopoulos has pointed out, his origi­

nality lay in freeing such flashbacks from the recollections of a single character and ex­

pressing instead "collective historical memory" or even the echoes of past events linger­
ing in the shot's locale. 23 Likewise, in his reliance on the long take Angelopoulos proved

1 4 8 A N G E L O P O U L O S , O R M E L A N C H O L Y

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