ELENI (1985). By Peter Yates. From book by Greek-born former New York Times reporter Nicholas Gage, where he details his search for the communist partisans who killed his mother during the Greek civil war of 1946-49.
Tough, sobering movie cross-cuts between Gage's search and the old events in his village.

Film met with critics' lack of comprehension and with political opposition by those who deemed this an attack against the "andartes" (guerillas). This shows ignorance of Greek history and of general history, since in all civil wars true believers on either side engage in horrors.

Kate Nelligan in title role was also found wanting, but I think that save for some unconvincingly dramatic bits imposed on her, Miss Nelligan does a good,touching job.

John Malkovich (as Gage) was accused of playing a dull character, a silly objection based on the criterion that only nice, well-rounded characters are valid. In fact, Malkovich is good and believable, as are many in this non-Greek cast. Since the movie could not be made in Greece (except for some uncontroversial Athens footage) it went to Spain. Careful work makes the Spanish landscape a perfect stand -in for rural Greece.

The film is a remarkable document --not in all details, (Gage has been taken to task for fiddling around with facts,) but in the recreation of the

period's deadly mood. (Edwin Jahiel)

[Published November 1987]