The Construction of Cinematic Realism in Mihalis Cacoyannis’ Early Films (1954-1959)

Vrasidas Karalis


When Mihalis Cacoyannis (1922-2011) went to Athens from England in 1952, he immediately recognised the soft, luminous and still unscathed landscape of the city and its environs as his personal cinematic language. He hadn’t been in Athens or in Greece before, as he was born in Cyprus, in a genteel family of colonial officials. The Attic landscape was scarred by the ravages of two wars but not yet deformed by intense industrial development or inordinate urban sprawl. The successful translation of the landscape into a visual idiom which would represent the existential adventure of its inhabitants became one of the most emblematic achievements of Cacoyannis’ film-making throughout his life. At the same time the young cinematographer discovered the Greek film industry in a state of fer - vent reconstruction following the near destruction it had suffered during the previous decade. His immediate contribution can thus be seen both in the context of “film culture” and the “cinema industry” of the country.

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