The Tree and the Swing opens Athens Fest’s Greek programme
by Joseph Proimakis
- Maria Douza’s Greco-Serbian homecoming drama packed the theatre for its European premiere, after its Montreal world debut.
Homecoming has been a strong theme in Greek drama since the times of Homer’s Odyssey, and never is it more recurring than at times of great social and economic woes pushing people to cross borders, seeking a more viable future.
Maria Douza’s feature debut explores such themes via Eleni (photo – Mirto Alikaki), a Greek doctor who has moved to London, set up a new life, secured a job and started a family. Her father (Ilias Logothetis) seems unwilling to visit her in London, and Eleni has developed a harsh defense mechanism to her longing, with mentions of her Greek heritage causing her an almost allergic reaction.
However, when she’s faced with having to follow her husband to Shanghai where he’s being repositioned, she feels the urge to visit her father and the land she’s been trying to sever ties with.
Drama is heightened when she reaches home to find a Serbian woman living with her father after a heart attack Eleni knew nothing about, and staying in Eleni’s own old room. Nina (Mirjana Karanovic) seems to have almost replaced Eleni in her father’s every-day life, and not without reason.
Alikaki’s powerful performance and Karanovic’s more subtle tones provide the film’s ensuing power-games with a fine balance, which Douza uses to push her drama towards a family’s reconstruction after the prodigal child’s long-awaited return.
Cinematographer Epameinondas Zafeiris does an ace job at implementing the countryside’s plethora of natural elements, without having them override the dry palettes that accentuate the story’s emotional turmoil, while set decorator Dimitris Margaritis’ detailed work provides a rich and realistic backdrop to a home-coming story that not only transports our main character across a continent, but also a few decades back, straight into her childhood – right where home always lies.
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