06/12/12GOD LOVES CAVIAR By Mimis Tsakoniatis, Film Critic “They are children of many men, our words” Giorgos Seferis The film God Loves Caviar about Greek benefactor Ioannis Varvakis looks like the enigmatic male figure that is created by the incomparable Leonardo da Vinci: St. John the Baptist who, although eternal darkness envelops him like a deathly shroud, is radiant and smiling, with one hand on his heart while the other, the right one, points up, to the sky… But isn’t this the ingredient which is so obviously and distressfully missing from contemporary cinema? The creator’s regard towards the vital source… The divine. Nowadays, there are many masters directors-poets of decadence who are very interesting cinematically, because they imprint on celluloid the decomposition that is dominant all around us. But dissolution demands synthesis. And this is the problem of art today. That all of a sudden lost its belief in synthesis and principally in beauty. Modern art looks only inwardly where there is nothing to be found but ruins, the mirror of our world: everyone wants to descend into the realm of the mother, of the primordial womb, of the darkness, without possessing Faust’s key. I do believe that the destination of the artist –and also of human being– is to try to get hold of a key and to open closed doors with it. Ancient Greek tragic poets, Plato, Shakespeare, Goethe, Jung, Kubrick, and many more achieved that goal. But one of our contemporary Greek directors, Iannis Smaragdis, has succeeded it too, as at the end of his film it is the children that hold the keys, it is lost innocence that opens the door of prison and leads the hero to freedom… Is it irrelevant Christ’s words in Matthew 18:3, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”? There is a wide river that connects all spiritual people. And that river is God. Because as Poseidon remarked in Homer’s Odyssey: “man is nothing without Gods!” Iannis Smaragdis is a unique case of genuine metaphysical director in the history of Greek cinema, who in an era of complete decadence, of reign and worship of ugliness, of material and Ego, he moves against the dominant dark stream. In fact, he flows into the same blue river along with all the ancient and contemporary metaphysical philosophers and poets. He does not follow the ephemeral, the mortal and corruptible Zeitgeist, but the eternal, immutable and life-giving Spirit of Depth. His new film is a modern version on Dante’s Divine Comedy. However, the archetypal story of the main character is not told in a linear fashion as in Italian poet’s work, that is Hell-Purgatory-Paradise; it rather follows a fragmented route beginning from the middle (the Lazaretto) and downwards, towards the slavery of soul, and afterwards it flies high, towards redemption. It is a poetic, allegorical film and its creative matrix is the eternal sea. That is the soul itself where at its extreme end, accurately at its utmost point, the immense water element embraces erotically with infinite, azure sky… Or, as the magician of literature Alexandros Papadiamantis wrote “where the sky at the one edge, the most distant, comes down in order to embrace nearer the extreme end of the sea, where the sapphire kisses the emerald, the deep green kisses back the blue” . So, it’s the sea that turns Varvakis into a pirate, and the same one that makes him a saint. She gives him the whole world (the caviar) and she takes it back. It is as if she speaks to him, and to audience as well: “Be warned and understand truly That two fishes are swimming in our sea, The vastness of which no man can describe. Moreover the Sages say That the two fishes are only one, not two; They are two, and nevertheless they are one”. There, within the black and blue waters of the sea will take place the hero’s initiatory, purgatorial descent (Eleusinian Mysteries), when he will have already reached the limits of Ego and have tasted all the joys but also the sorrows and sufferings of this vain world. It is there that he will receive the “lighting”, the inspiration by Holy Spirit (El Greco’s relevant painting) and experience a metanoia, a mental transformation. Just like Apostle Paul after seeing Christ in a vision, the “scales” from his eyes will fall… Or according to Plato’s myth, he will escape from the cave, he’ll come out to the Light, leaving the world of shadows behind… Over there, he will rend his clothes, the web of unconsciousness [to hyphasma tes agnosias], the stronghold of wickedness, the bonds which he bore, the dark veil, the living death, the visible corpse, the surrounding grave… For this is the hostile garment, which narrows you down to the worship of Ego, to egocentrism, so that you cannot raise your eyes above and face the beauty of Truth. Because according to Plato’s Phaedrus “our soul whose essence is eternal motion, had originally wings that it shed and fell to earth. But once the soul meets down here any embodiment of beauty, its wings grow back, and then it wants to fly up to the skies once again to see there the immortal and true beauty”. But is it mere coincidence that the lonely wayfarer to Poetry of Light, Iannis Smaragdis, chose the exquisite German actor Sebastian Koch to impersonate this archetypal hero in his uphill and arduous course of his soul from the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City”? That with a wisely geometrized inner architecture, he shows us how man, from a gregarious animal in which reign the crude instinctive forces of life, manages to transform himself into a spiritual being through great pain and cost. Of course not! Because as says the titan of German culture, poet and mystic, Goethe, condensing ideally Ioannis Varvakis’ inner journey from darkness to Light, or according to Jung, from Ego to Self: “I resisted for so long, but I finally relented: when the old Ego resists, a new one awakes. And as long as you lack of it, this ‘Die and Become!’, you are but a wretched passer-by on the gloomy land”. As Jung said “As I walk along, I carry my burden”. And as man and also the creator transmute “the clay within him into spirit, into light” quoting the words of our brother Kazantzakis, that much this burden becomes lighter and gives him wings… And along with him become also lighter and “fly” high the receivers of his work. Or to mention also the luminescent Odysseas Elytis: “You must know that only he who fights the darkness within will the day after tomorrow have his own share in the sun”.