Release date: December 2015
Director: Christoforus Papalaliatis
Running time: 113 minutes
Languages: English and Greek (with sub-titles)
Well-narrated Love Stories are hard to come by, but Worlds Apart set in Greece in 2015 in the context of the austerity measures imposed on it by the ‘Troika’, the misery and suffering it caused the Greek people and the arrival of immigrants in Europe; is a story of three relationships immersed in love with their own consequences. Beautifully stringed together in three segments, the film seamlessly delivers emotion, politics and economic themes with poignant and heart wrenching messages.
The film is directed by Greek actor, film director and screenwriter Christoforus Papakaliatis; and stars among others American actor Jonathan Kimble Simmons (‘Sebastian’) who received widespread acclaim for his role in Whiplash which won him Awards from the Academy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA as ‘Best actor in a supporting role’ in 2014. The other actors are Christoforus himself as ‘Giorgos’, Andrea Osvart as ‘Elise’, Maria Kavoyianni as ‘Maria’, Minas Hatzisavvas as ‘Antonis’, Tawfeek Barhom as ‘Farris’, Niki Vakali as ‘Daphne’, Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos as ‘Odysses’ and Matthaios Korovesis as ‘Anthony’, Giorgos’ son. The film grossed $5m at the box office and surpassed the performance of other blockbusters in the same year such as Star Wars, The Force Awakening and the James Bond Spectre in Greece.
Act 1: Daphne a student studying politics at the Greek University is nearly raped by two men on her way home one evening but is rescued by Farris, a Greek migrant from Syria living in Athens. Farris is a hawker on the streets and next sees Daphne on a bus on her way to the university. He quickly boards the bus and returns her phone, which she had dropped during the rape incident. Therein develops a story of pure love based on common understandings of their individual situations. Daphne comes from an unhappy situation at home and quickly embraces the unconditional love of Farris. Her father Antonis, whose businesses have collapsed because of the austerity, blames his woes on the illegal immigrants in Greece.
Farris on the other hand survives in the city by sleeping in an abandoned plane on the runway of a decrepit airport in Athens; and is in the process of procuring a forged passport to enable him to make his way to the Americas. His is a precarious life as he survives the insecurity and poverty of the streets of Athens.
Their love is affected by the social turmoil created by right wing fascist groups in Greece who blame the immigrants for their economic woes. Once, Farris asks Daphne what she is studying and when she says ‘Politics’, he says ‘politics is dirty’. Both of them are victims of the politics of exclusion, violence and hate. The ending is tragic and poignant as Daphne realizes the devastating truth of her father’s nefarious nighttime activities.
Act 2: Giorgios is the marketing manager of a local company, which under the uncertain economic climate is facing an imminent take over by an international conglomerate. He is in an unhappy marriage situation and struggles with his relationship with his son. Sitting in a bar one evening he meets the swashbuckling, beautiful and self-confident Elise and has a one-night love affair, or so he thinks. Elise meanwhile has come to Greece to oversee the restructuring and takeover of the Company Georgis works for; but little does he know this that night.
The ugly truth of what Elsie really represents becomes apparent when she starts executing her mandate to fire employees of this Company right across the board, in order to meet her corporate responsibility of bringing the company to a level of financial profitability that will enable her own company back home to take over. The anger and frustrations of the employees become evident as some like Odysseas who has a pregnant wife appeals to Giorgios, knowing the latter’s relationship to Elsie, to save his job. , Giorgios remains aloof and Odysses ends up committing suicide. Simultaneously Giorgios battles with the demons within his marriage and tries to come to terms with the difficult questions his son Anthony asks about the state of their family lives, the fragility of their relationship and what the future holds for him.
Meanwhile Elsie and Giorgios carry on their fatuous passionate relationship without expectations of any long-term ties. Elsie’s idyllic world comes crashing down as she realizes that she is unable to reconcile her corporate responsibility with her decisions, which effect real lives, and resigns in sheer frustration and guilt.
Act 3: Sebastian meets Maria outside the supermarket where both are lonely in their own ways and looking for love and companionship. Sebastian, a German professor working at the local library and in love with books and the written word, soon draws Maria into his world of ideas, images, belongings and fantasies. Maria, who is very guarded about her family details and can only understand a smattering of English, comes across as focused, clear and realistic of what life offers her. However, the love-stricken Sebastian slowly breaks down the barriers of both language and culture, and builds an unlikely relationship.
The last half an hour of the film brings all the strands of Act 1, 2 and 3 together in a beautiful narrative that leaves the viewer stunned by the sensitivity, depth and moral leanings of modern Greece. The meaning of ‘Worlds Apart’ is unveiled in the frailty and subtlety of love, kinship and friendship. Running to almost two hours, one is spellbound to the end making the film a recommended viewing for all.
You can read more about the situation in Greece here