tue 16/07/2024

Smyrna review - Greece at twilight | reviews, news & interviews

Smyrna review - Greece at twilight

Smyrna review - Greece at twilight

The appalling climax of the Greco-Turkish War inspires a misty-eyed dud

The end of times: Mimi Denissi (standing, third from left) and Rupert Graves (seated next to her) in 'Smyrna"KOVA International

The Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922, in which tens of thousands of Greeks and Armenians were slaughtered by Turkish soldiers, is a topical subject for our dark times. Unfortunately the intervening century hasn’t put an end to ethnic cleansing or to the plight of refugees.

Grigoris Karantinakis’s 2021 costume drama, originally released in Greece as Smyrna My Beloved, seems to be aware of uncomfortable historical parallels. It begins in 2015, Titanic-like, with a nonagenarian survivor rescuing something from the deep. In this case, Filio Williams (Jane Lapotaire), whose grandmother fled to Lesbos, greets Syrian asylum-seekers as they arrive on the same beach in small boats.

The surname of this character, and of the celebrated actor who plays her, will perhaps alert film buffs to an “international co-production”. For all its good intentions, Smyrna can’t help triggering memories of Europuddings of the 1970s in which a gallery of uninterested stars lent Hollywood or, in this case, Pinewood glamour (Susan Hampshire and Rupert Graves) by flying in to deliver dreadful English dialogue.

Most of the script, in Greek, was improbably written by the film’s divaesque leading lady (Mimi Denissi, pictured above), who plays Lapotaire’s grandmother. Under gathering clouds of war, this matriarch of a Greek merchant family hosts posh picnics and polyglot parties in the Byzantine jewel that was Smyrna (now Izmir) before its destruction.

What with the pince-nez and the parasols, and a subplot involving Denissi’s efforts to marry off her daughter (Anastasia Pantousi) to an English toff (Nathan Thomas), Smyrna will no doubt appeal to Merchant-Ivory fans: it’s essentially A Rum with a View with signature mannerisms of Greek television acting as a bonus. A long way from Dogtooth, in other words, but twice as absurd and only half as true. The final scenes, however, are a disgraceful indictment of Greek nationalism and nostalgia – and an insult to the memory of the victims of the Asia Minor catastrophe.

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'Smyrna' can’t help triggering memories of Europuddings of the 1970s

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will no doubt appeal to Merchant Ivory fans”: I doubt it, unless Smyrna is infinitely better than this review claims!

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