“The Tree and the Swing”: The Importance of Home

This 2013 Greek film is about the gravitation of Greek cardiologist Eleni (Myrto Alikaki), working in London, to her place of birth and her father in Greece.

Life is simply perfect for Eleni as she has just been given a seat at a prestigious London hospital. Then basically out of nowhere the bank her husband works for “goes bust” but he escaped with a promotion as Managing Director provided he relocates to China. He’s is off in a flash leaving Eleni and their young daughter Anna behind with no plans to join him.

Eleni receives a call from Kryiakos (Elias Logothetis) her father in Greece saying he can’t make it to London to attend the ceremony granting his daughter a seat at the hospital but that she should come to deal with urgent matters concerning the family house.

With Anna in tow off they go to Greece and meet up with Kryiakos and the mystery begins. Who is this Serbian housekeeper Nina (Mirjana Karanovic)? Is she more than a housekeeper? Is she a lover although being Eleni’s age is this possible?

Kryiakos is one of the 10,000 Greeks that arrived in Yugoslavia in November 1949. Most of the Greeks were orphans. Kryiakos is eventually repatriated and rushes back home leaving a daughter behind. Eleni is leafing through her father’s medical records as she had been informed her father recently had a heart attack and stents inserted in an operation. This medical drama took place without anyone informing her! Well she stumbles on some pictures taken in 1963 Belgrade with Nina in them. Yes Nina is Eleni’s sister!

Matters turn a bit political as Kryiakos, being a former orphan, wants to help single mothers with children immigrating to Greece which at that meant Albanians. There are Greek Albanians created when after the World War’s new countries were created, But with the fall of Enver Hoxha’s communism in Albania in 1992 all varieties of Albanians flocked into Greece raising the ire of Greeks many of whom blamed rocketing crime rates on the newly arriving Albanians.

Kyriakos wanted to create a foundation to help house these refugees and as mayor of the town his views carry weight but there is strong resistance amongst some of the local politicians who are complaining of the damage being caused by governmental expenditure cuts and now favouring the immigrants with his house! One of the NIMBY politicians remarked this would be like creating a garbage dump out of the house. Eleni lashes out viciously against Nina reeling with shock realizing that Nina is her sister.

Poor Kryiakos dies after Easter dinner his heart finally giving way. Nina opens up with her husband Stefanos joining her explaining they were finally losing their house in Belgrade due to a bank foreclosure. Nina had originally come to Kyriakos to ask for help but after she arrived he had his heart attack and stent operation so she was waiting until he recovered to ask for assistance.

Kryiakos’ dream was for him and Eleni to run the “boarding house” which she refused despite his insistence this was her home. You can take a Greek out of Greece but to take the Greece out of a Greek is difficult.

Eleni signs over control of the foundation to her sister Nina and announces she is going to join her husband in China so as to keep the family intact.

It is interesting that the original English release was called “A Place Called Home” because this is really a film about the importance of having a clearly defined home and avoiding the trauma of a separated family. Eleni, when signing over the Foundation to Nina makes a clear point that there must always be a room for us when we return.

Harry, Eleni’s husband, before he departed for China, said prophetically and perhaps gives us a summation of the movie when he asks if she is really going home to see her father or is it that home will always be waiting for her?

A very solid move all round from acting, writing to cinematography. The film won 8 awards at the 2014 Cyprus Film Festival including best actress to Alikaki and best actor to Logothetis. The movie ends with Anna swinging on a tree swing at Kryiakos’ home as it began with Eleni swinging on a tree swing. Basic but forceful symbolism.

Virtual access is available for a nominal fee through the Hellenic Film Society USA and you can access it through their website https://hellenicfilmusa.org/

In Greek, English and Serbian with English subtitles when needed. A very strong debut for director Maria Douza. The film runs through March 6th.

You can see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQJhbsJlroA&feature=emb_logo

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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