FAS­CI­NAT­ING CITIES

Beijing (English) - - FEATURE -

Greece usu­ally leaves a deep im­pres­sion on any­one who learns about it. Visitors are of­ten amazed by its pic­turesque scenery and long his­tory.

Troy A Leg­endary Story

The leg­endary en­tan­gle­ment be­tween the gods of Olym­pus and hu­mankind lasted for thou­sands of years. The Tro­jan­war de­picted in the epic poem Iliad by Homer (c. 750 BC) is a story that has been re­peat­edly in­ter­preted and adapted by sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions.

The 2004 film Troy, di­rected by Wolf­gang Petersen (born 1941), is one of the adap­tions. It de­picts Paris (Or­lando Bloom), the Prince of Troy, fall­ing in love with He­len (Diane Kruger), wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. He con­vinces her to leave her hus­band and se­cretly takes her to Troy. The elope­ment en­rages the Greeks and al­lied Greek forces are sent to Troy led by Agamem­non (Brian Cox), King of Myce­nae. In the sub­se­quent, decade-long war, Achilles (Brad Pitt), Odysseus (Sean Bean), Hec­tor (Eric Bana) and many other fig­ures are part of a leg­endary and lam­en­ta­ble epic.

Peter­son de­picts the myth­i­cal story in a more sec­u­lar way: the decade-long war is re­flected in 15 days of fight­ing, chil­dren of gods are killed by mor­tals and the leg­endary un­ri­valled beauty He­len is por­trayed as an or­di­nary beau­ti­ful woman in the film.

300: Rise of an Em­pire Flam­ing Spirit of Fight­ers

Some peo­ple have said that 300: Rise of an Em­pire fea­tures more body­builders

than any other movie ever made. The film de­picts the war be­tween the Greeks and Per­sians in the 5th cen­tury BC. Brawny men, gory fight­ing through­out the film, sus­tained bloody scenes, mag­nif­i­cent de­pic­tions of naval bat­tle, panoramic views of the large-scale war and other as­pects make a strong vis­ual im­pact on the au­di­ence.

The film is a se­quel to the 2006 film 300. It tells the story of Greek hero Themis­tok­les killing King Dar­ius of Per­sia in the renowned Bat­tle of Marathon. The dis­cord sows the seeds of vengeance on the part of Xerxes I of Per­sia. In­sti­gated by Per­sian naval ad­mi­ral Artemisia, Xerxes fights with King Leonidas from the citys­tate of Sparta and 300 war­riors at Ther­mopy­lae. Mean­while, Artemisia and her pow­er­ful naval forces are ap­proach­ing Athens. Greek gen­eral Themis­tok­les leads the charge against the in­vad­ing Per­sian forces and en­gages in bru­tal killings.

The se­quel was di­rected by Is­raeli Noam Murro and was based on the Frank Miller comic mini-se­ries Xerxes. It por­trays events that oc­curred 10 years be­fore the Bat­tle of Ther­mopy­lae and some that oc­cur af­ter the Bat­tle of Marathon. An­i­mal King­dom star Sul­li­van Sta­ple­ton plays the role of out­stand­ing Greek politi­cian and brave gen­eral Themis­tok­les. French ac­tress Eva Green plays Ateme­sia in the film. Ro­drigo San­toro reprises his role as Xerxes from the first film.

Zorba the Greek A Charm­ing Per­son­al­ity

Zorba the Greek is a clas­sic film di­rected by Cypriot film­maker Michael Ca­coy­an­nis in 1964. It was a Bri­tishGreek pro­duc­tion. The story takes place in the re­mote coun­try­side in Crete, Greece. An up­tight English writer played by Alan Bates trav­els to Crete to at­tend to a busi­ness mat­ter. His life changes for­ever when he meets the gre­gar­i­ous and ex­pres­sive Alexis Zorba. He some­times dances or plays the piano wildly as op­posed to ex­press­ing him­self ver­bally. Af­ter see­ing Zorba's lust for life, Alan de­cides to ex­plore the cul­tural trea­sures that his an­ces­tors left.

The novel that it is based on can help peo­ple un­der­stand the film and the coun­try of Greece. Zorba is a free man who achieved a high de­gree of har­mony be­tween his soul and his body. He lives in his own way and pur­sues what he wants. He does not hes­i­tate to learn about and do things that make him­self and oth­ers happy like danc­ing and play­ing the piano. Some peo­ple may re­gard him as use­less or a tramp. By con­trast, Bates's char­ac­ter is young, aim­less, has read many books, is am­bi­tious but also de­pressed. Zorba is the great­est man and had the strong­est body and freest soul that he has ever seen.

Crete is the largest Greek is­land. It did not break free from Ot­toman rule until 1913. At that time, the en­tire coun­try was poor and back­ward. There was an ur­gent need to eman­ci­pate peo­ple's minds. Many

peo­ple on the is­land had be­come used to long-term slav­ery and op­pres­sion. In this sense, Nikos Kazantza­kis's Zorba the Greek was in­spi­ra­tional and helped with this project.

The film is ex­quis­ite and en­ter­tain­ing. An­thony Quinn was lauded for his bril­liant per­for­mance. The film de­picts the friend­ship be­tween the two men of dif­fer­ent classes, back­grounds and per­son­al­i­ties. It was a smash hit, won three Academy Awards and was later adapted into a Broad­way stage play.

The film has reached many celebri­ties. It is said be­fore San­mao (writer in the Tai­wan re­gion known as Echo Chan in English) and her even­tual spouse Jose Maria Quero y Ruiz got mar­ried, Ruiz in­vited San­mao to watch the movie at the cin­ema. Haruki Mu­rakami and his wife lived in Greece when he was about forty years old. Im­pressed by Zorba the Greek and Crete, he com­pleted Drums in the Dis­tance. Li Ao (writer and in­de­pen­dent politi­cian in the Tai­wan re­gion) has also called him­self "Zorba of China."

Be­fore Mid­night A Soul­ful Is­land

In the Amer­i­can ro­man­tic film Be­fore Sun­rise (1995), Amer­i­can youth Jesse meets a French girl named Ce­line, and they spend an un­for­get­table night in Vienna. Nine years later, Jesse has be­come a nov­el­ist in Be­fore Sun­set (2004) and meets Ce­line again in Paris. They re­sume their con­nec­tion be­fore sun­set. Nine years later in Be­fore Mid­night (2013), the two have be­come a cou­ple and are par­ents to twin girls. They have more in­sight into love and life. Be­fore Mid­night tells the story of the last day of their hol­i­day in Pelo­pon­nese, Greece.

The tril­ogy fea­tures a lot of con­ver­sa­tion. In the first two films, the two main char­ac­ters dis­cuss lit­er­a­ture, love, life and sex in set­tings like a tran­quil vil­lage, a bal­cony and sit­ting at the ta­ble. Even­tu­ally though, mun­dane, daily mat­ters over­take much of the ro­mance be­tween the two as time goes on. The pic­turesque Greek is­land that sur­rounds them in the third film and the Myce­naean his­tor­i­cal sites are the set­ting of their dis­putes.

The ho­tel where they spend their hol­i­day used to be the res­i­dence of renowned anti-nazi World War II hero Sir Pa­trick Michael Leigh Fer­mor. It be­came a mu­seum af­ter he died. In the film, it is de­picted as a place where famous artists, mu­si­cians, writ­ers and other fig­ures take a short va­ca­tion.

The beau­ti­ful coastal scenery of the small town of Kala­mata can be seen at the end of the film. The two even­tu­ally rec­on­cile, and the love that they main­tain is re­al­is­tic and mov­ing.

Glam­orous Greece A Clas­sic Doc­u­men­tary

The Glam­orous Greece doc­u­men­tary pro­duced by the CCTV (China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion) doc­u­men­tary chan­nel main­tains the qual­ity of the “Glam­orous” se­ries.

The first episode fo­cuses on

the Aegean Sea. Greek civil­i­sa­tion de­vel­oped on the sea, and the Greeks ex­plored the ocean in ships. It prob­a­bly in­spired in­tel­lec­tual free­dom and helped fos­ter an ad­ven­tur­ous spirit. Direc­tor Dim­itris Pa­paioan­nou in­ter­preted the growth of Greek sea­far­ing life with an ab­stract per­for­mance at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2004 Sum­mer Olympic Games in Athens. Greece was the first na­tion to de­velop ship­ping. Some of its rich­est fam­i­lies, such as the Tsatos fam­ily, ac­cu­mu­lated their wealth through ship­ping. The pa­tri­arch felt he could trust the sea for­ever.

The sec­ond episode fo­cuses on gifts from the Mediter­ranean cli­mate. Greece fea­tures plenty of sun­shine and is known as the “bal­cony of Europe.” Olives and grapes grow eas­ily and add unique flavours to Greek ta­bles. Greece pro­duces pre­mium olive oil, which is known as “liq­uid gold.” Olive oil helps bring healthy and happy lives to the longlived peo­ple of Crete. Greek cit­i­zens have great en­thu­si­asm for out­door sports. They are of­ten op­ti­mistic and brave. A for­mer deputy prime minister once ac­ci­den­tally dis­cov­ered a method of grow­ing grapes and pro­duc­ing wine in the cold and high­alti­tude town of Metsovo. The pur­plered liq­uid sym­bol­ised the politi­cian's ex­pec­ta­tions for the pros­per­ity of the coun­try. Win­ter is also warm in Greece and helps ev­ery­thing come to life.

The third episode in­tro­duces the power of stone. Greece boasts the world's largest mar­ble re­serves and the most va­ri­eties of the stone. The Aegean Sea is lo­cated at the junc­tion of the African plate and the Eurasian plate. The African Plate be­gan to move north­ward 180 mil­lion years ago. Rock un­der­went qual­i­ta­tive change un­der the high tem­per­a­ture and pres­sure and mar­ble was formed. Greeks have cre­ated stat­ues with this mar­ble to de­pict their gods and he­roes since an­cient times. Mar­ble has of­ten recorded the his­tory of the coun­try. For ex­am­ple, a statue of Melina Mer­couri, film star and for­mer Greek minister of cul­ture and sports, stands at the foot of the Acrop­o­lis. She is known as a mod­ern god­dess of Greece and spared no ef­fort in try­ing re­trieve the pre­cious El­gin mar­bles. Wealthy busi­ness­man Ge­orge Averoff gen­er­ously spon­sored the re­fur­bish­ment of the famous mar­ble Pana­thenaic Sta­dium for the first mod­ern Olympic Games. His name will be re­mem­bered by Greeks for­ever. Mar­ble comes to life in Greece and fea­tures the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of na­ture and hu­man­ity.

The doc­u­men­tary por­trays some of the beau­ti­ful, in­deli­ble mem­o­ries in the coun­try.

A scene from the film Troy (2004)

Poster for 300: Rise of An Em­pire (2014)

A scene from the film Be­fore Mid­night (2013)

Poster for the film Zorba the Greek (1964)

A scene from the Glam­orous Greece doc­u­men­tary

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