Ulysses’ Gaze (Greek: ?? ?????? ??? ???????, translit. To Vlemma tou Odyssea) is a 1995 Greek film directed by Theo Angelopoulos. This film refers to the political geography of the Balkans, the history and the fragmentation of the collapsed Yugoslavia. That film not only includes political elements but also the characters’ own inner journeys and quests. When the Ulysses’ Gaze is analyzed, it contains mythological, political and loneliness elements.
When the Ulysses’ Gaze is analyzed in terms of mythological elements, we can infer that some of the scenes in the film have included mythological stories. Firstly, the film tells the story of successful Greek filmmaker. As a protagonist, A (Harvey Keitel) returning home and sets out on an epic journey across the battered Balkans in search of three lost reels of film by the Manaki brothers, the pioneering photographers. We see a ship scene before the protagonist leaves the hometown. The ship scene helps us to make connect with the legend of Odysseus in Greek mythology. Odysseus begins a long and difficult journey to return to his country after the long battle of Troy. Also, for the director it is very important to find those three lost reels. Secondly, protagonist reaches Belgrade after a long journey. He moves on the Belgrade film archive to hope that he find the three lost reels but he disappointed because the three lost reels were sent Sarajevo. This part of film reminds us that this scene is the part, where Odysseus came too close to home and went back too far with Poseidon’s storm like protagonist. The other mythological element of Odysseus is the farewell scene. In this scene protagonist
says the woman who meets in the voyage says goodbye to the port and he says, “I cry because I can not love you.” This sentence is very familiar to Greek mythology because
it is taken Homer’s Odysseus. Thirdly, protagonist sets off to Bosnia for the sake of find the three lost reels but at that time in the Bosnia there is a corruption because of the Balkan wars. At that time in the Bosnia, there are many sorrowful events are being experienced like people fleeing left and right, smokes, flames, dwelling houses, cannon voices, siren voices etc. Protagonist witnesses the death of many people and these events affects him psychologically. He says he lost himself and started to be someone else. This journey changed him At that point. this part of film reminds us Odysseus myth because Odysseus also lost all his men during his journey and returned home as someone else. The final scene of Ulysses’ Gaze has a monologue where the Odysseus-like character speaks the lines such as Odysseus to Penelope, “When I return, it will be with another man’s clothes.” In the scene there is a white projection screen suggesting that the character has just finished watching one of the Manakis’ films that he went on the long journey in order to find. Like Odysseus he had suffered many hardships and watched his companions die. Yet, he was successful in completing his journey to find the films that he believed would show and revive the true “life” of Greece. This was similar to Odysseus finally arriving and being known for who he was in Ithaca. Odysseus returned to his country in another man’s clothes like the character says he will. The Odysseus-like character will be returning “home” after having completed his journey and gone through a type of self-discovery or change. Throughout the film he experienced part of the lives of the Manakis brothers and many hardships himself as well. He will return with the films that could change the views of others and have already changed him. Like Odysseus, his journey is not yet over. We can see that in the last monologue of the protagonist:
When I return, it will be with another man’s clothes. Another man’s name.
My coming will be unexpected.
If you look at me, unbelieving and say, you are not here.
I will show you signs and you will be believe me.
I will tell you about the lemon tree in your garden. The cool window that lets in the moonlight.
And then signs of the body. Signs of love.
And as we climb, trembling to our old room, between one embrace and the next, between lovers’ calls, I will tell you about journey, all the long night long and then all the nights come
Between one embrace and the next. Between the lovers’ calls, the whole human adventure. The story never ends.
Besides, there are many mise-en-scene techniques like shots, distance, angles, composition, framing in that parts. For instance, several possibilities are hinted at in flashback scenes. In one instance, protagonist simply wanders into his past with flashbacks, while a dream sequence involves the supposed death of one of the brothers. Yet, Ulysses’ Gaze does not rely on typical narrative techniques to reveal actor’s quest; instead, Angelopoulos uses a barrage of slowly developing images that subsumes the story into an emotional upwelling. Oftentimes, cinematographers Yorgos Arvanitis and Andreas Sinanos’ cameras slowly pan ahead of Keitel, then back toward him, or pull away from a “scene,” turns 90 or 180 degrees, then swivels back and peers even more deeply at whatever “scene” it had just left. It’s as if the camera is signaling that what seems the same is different, thus pulling the viewer into a closer reckoning of stasis vs. change.
When the Ulysses’ Gaze is analyzed in terms of social and politic aspect, we can infer that some of the scenes in the film have included political elements. Firstly, The film goes through the imperialist sharing war in the Balkans and there arepolitical messages made through Lenin’s sculpture. For example, one of the most striking scenes of the film is the scene which the Lenin’s sculpture wander from the Danube river to entire Balkans.What is embodied in Lenin’s statue is the dream of socialism. When the sculpture passing, people show their cross and this represents a funeral ceremony. The passing of the Lenin sculpture throughout Danube River gives messagesthe collapse of state capitalism and shows that people on the shore fulfill their last duty to socializm. The sculpture is up on the ship. Lenin abandoned the Balkans, where they were once ruled and authoritarian, with a piece of sculpture laid around them. At the same time this socialism is the last journey in the Balkans. Protagonist, as a fugitive passanger of the ship, is at the foot of Lenin. Secondly, the other politic element in the film is hided the in the Balkan streets. Protagonist the passes through closed cinemas from ghost streets, from cities buried in land and silence He witnesses the disappearance of the multicultural spirit in the Balkans. The Balkans are exactly surrounded by despair, alienation, confusion. In the film there is a scene which explains how it is unreal the division of people over national identities. For example, when fog covers the Bosnia, the old archivist is delighted with this fog because fog is one of the most beautiful hopes for the people of Sarajevo. Because when fog comes out, sharp snipers break their jobs and it is only time thatlife in the city turns into normal. The youth orchestra who are totally different pole of the society, makes music and dances from one side of the city to the other. People, who are belong the every religion or race like Croatians, Serbs, Muslims join this feast. This shows that clearly there is no the division of people over national identities and this is one of the best politic message in the film. Besides, the other mise-en-scene technique in that part of the film consist of the camera movements and angles. For example, in the first when the camera goes back and forth along a pier, an old man who used to be Yannakis Manakis’ assistant tells Keitel that one afternoon in Salonika, Manakis had wanted to photograph a blue ship about to sail. We then see the two men, Manakis and the assistant, on the pier. However, the assistant is the same old man, seen when the film changes from the past’s sepia to the present’s color film. The old man tells Keitel the story merely by walking a few yards toward the actor, as the ship sails off. Thus, with a few slow, horizontal camera movements, Angelopoulos shows how simple technique can weave a complex tale, with minimal voiceover dialogue from the assistant. This is also an example of great cinematography wherein the actual scenery is rather pedestrian
When the Ulysses’ Gaze is analyzed in terms of loneliness, we can infer that some of the scenes in the film have included theme of loneliness. Firstly, as a director, our protogonist is lonely character during the film. For example, the protagonist, who spends much of his life in America because of the exile and after many years he returned to his country. He is a lonely person who is worn out of his work and broken in hope. Although he has a family, everything around you is polluted, worn, wounded. To look upon the future hopefully and to get rid of his loneliness, he goes on a journey for the sake of seek the three lost reels. Secondly, in a scene, there is a conversation on the road between an old woman and the protagonist. She says that: “Will you be able to get me through Koriçi? I am going to look for my sister. I have not seen her for 47 year.” The protagonist accepts her request and he takes the woman. When they are in Korici, the taxi stops in the middle of the area. The man gives her bag. The door opens, and the woman goes down. Woman’s hand is standing with difficulty and ask a question “Where is here?” The old woman can not recognize the place because of the political corruption in the city there is no one else in the field. The woman looks sadly behind her car. She is alone. She looks at his surroundings with surprise, trying to figure out where she is, like a passenger in a place she does not know and tries to figure out where she is. We can understand the third example of loneliness in the conversation between the protagonist and the the woman that he met during her journey. In that conversation the women ask the protagonist why he is cring and he responds that”I am cring because I can’t love you.” Of course there is a reason why he says like that and the main point in his respond is because of the arising from the change of the authoritarian system in the Balkans. He thinks that they can not come together because of the corruption in the Balkans and in a way he cries his loneliness again. Besides, sounds of the film is also very impressive because it refletcs the mood of the film. There are very few movies in cinema history that combine such a drunkenness with your music and your visual and I think Eleni Karaindrou manage it succesfully becausesoundtracks makes the film more deep. Theodoros Angelopulos, who is the director of the film worked with Eleni Karaindrou in many films and this shows that clearly, she is one of the most important composer especially in film music sector. This succes of her leads to some prize in the category of film soundtracks.
Following in the footsteps of such melodic neo-Romantics as Henryk Górecki and Arvo Pärt, Eleni Karaindrou pens music of haunting stillness, creating sounds that highlight the elusive passing of time. Her score for Ulysses’ Gaze, a film that has yet to find U.S. distribution even though it won the 1995 Cannes Grand Jury Prize, suggests that such simplicity of sound can be as riveting as the fury of a Mahler symphony. The work revolves around a single melancholy theme for solo viola, meticulously phrased by Kim Kashkashian, a young talent who has garnered much acclaim for her interpretations of 20th-century works. The foundation of the music is provided by a traditional chamber orchestra, with the unlikely addition of an accordion lending a surprisingly wistful folk touch to an otherwise bleak sonic landscape. Karaindrou employs a theme-and-variations structure to perpetuate a somber mood throughout the work and is particularly successful in moments when the viola is in conversation with the oboe. Here, minimalism is defined not by simple repetition but by the sparseness and delicacy of the interplay of the two instruments. Intimate and introspective, Karaindrou’s spare score suggests yearnings for a lover long dead, or as the title implies, a desperate attempt to recover a homeland lost to the cloud of memory.
To sum up, when the Ulysses’ Gaze is analyzed, it contains mythological, political and loneliness elements.