The Deep Soul; A New Film by Pantelis Voulgaris - The Best from Greece

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Posted on: 02/Nov/2009 - It’s an unexpected encounter

Surrounded by the snowy landscape, a group of partisans and soldiers meet in a tent, in silence. If only for this moment, Pantelis Voulgaris’s ”Psyhi Vathia” (Deep Soul) was worth making. Though the scene lasts only a few minutes, a certain element of truth emerges through looks and gestures. Simmering fear and suspicion prevail among people who are not exactly enemies, but certainly not friends. Both sides are the faces of the same drama, the Greek Civil War, “of the shame,” in the words of a grandfather (interpreted by veteran Thanassis Vengos) in search of his grandson’s corpse.

From the outset, the film’s intentions are clear: 12,000 Greek soldiers died in the battles of the Balkan Wars, 37,000 died in the Asia Minor expedition, 15,000 died in the Italian and German offensive, while 70,000 soldiers and partisans of the National and Democratic armies, respectively, died in the civil war.

Huge amounts of pain, mourning, sorrow, love and guilt were buried in the battlefields of Grammos and Vitsi. In “Deep Soul,” Voulgaris tries to remove layers of oblivion and uncover buried stories and phrases which, though unrecorded, later turned into narrative material through the story of two young siblings, Anestis and Vlassis. Enlisted in opposing camps, the young brothers caused a rift in the family, nothing uncommon at a time when countless households experienced the civil war in a most violent, painful and indelible way, divided into two camps.

On the surface, the film displays all the elements of success: genuine emotion, well-shot battle scenes and breathtaking cinematography with the use of stunning landscapes. Well aware of the fact that he is dealing with tricky times and difficult people, the director focuses on the human tragedy, on the suspended moment of history: “How do we retreat? What kind of life can we go back to after all this?” the partisans wonder. “They abandoned us.”

The director films with the conscience, the feelings and the point of view of a tried leftist. He tries to be fair with respect to all that he has heard and read during the long period of preparation. And this is where the battle becomes uneven: Hints are erased and all “evil” comes from the outside. It’s the fault of the Americans who came and of the Russians who didn’t. It was the foreign powers who brought napalm bombs, destruction and civil heartache. Voulgaris touches the wounds carefully, so that they don’t bleed. When things get awkward he turns to poetic imagery and cinematic stereotypes. Opposing hands that touch each other and the unanswered question, “Did we win?” turn torment into a kind of choreography, a lullaby, as opposed to laying it all bare. Is this what we’re looking for 60 years on? Perhaps it is.


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