CLASS TRIP #11
The Engagement of Anna
Year of Release: 1974
Directed by: Pantelis Voulgaris
Written by: Menis Koumantareas, Pantelis Voulgaris
Starring: Anna Vagena, Smaro Veaki, Kotas Rigopoulos
"In his astounding debut film Voulgaris established the subtlety of tone with which he would uncompromisingly dissect
Greek society. A bourgeois family is gathered for a sunny garden party to celebrate the betrothal of Anna, the maid.
But "engagement" is too kind a translation: they have arranged Anna's marriage for her, and only now introduce her
to her bridegroom-to-be. As the day and evening wear on, the family gradually realize that they cannot, after all,
do without this servant girl-just after Anna delights in her first taste of happiness, listening to taverna music
with her new beau. The sort of dazed indignity of Anna's position-typical of young girls from poor families
who are routinely indentured to bourgeois households-is recreated in the film's unhurried pacing, where
urgency lies deeply buried. Voulgaris's film is a triumph of intelligence and compassion."
- Peter Pappas
"Born in Athens, Voulgaris studied at the Stavrakos Film School and, like many other Greek filmmakers of his generation,
began his career as an assistant at Finos Film Studios. Voulgaris had already worked as an assistant director in over
twenty productions when he made a promising debut with two short films -- The Thief and Tzimis o Tigris
(Jimmy the Tiger, 1966) -- and an ethnological documentary, O Chorus ton Tragon (Dance of the Goats,
1969). In 1970, while the country was firmly under the fascist military regime of the Colonels,
Voulgaris completed The Engagement of Anna. This film was among the first and most
distinctive manifestations of a different and dynamic cinema which would come to be
known as New Greek Cinema."
- The Museum of Modern Art
"The Engagement of Anna. Today, the dynamic action of feminist movements in western Europe, the USA, and
(after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974) Greece, and the phenomenal development of gender studies in cinema,
including feminist critic approaches, allows us to examine issues through the perspective of gender; however,
this practice was anything but self-evident in the Greece of the early Seventies. At that time, and in his
debut as a feature film director, the decision of Voulgaris to place Anna΄s story in the heart of the
narrative is particularly valuable and substantially innovative; much more so because the issue of
gender had been left out of the political agenda of the Greek Left, and the request for
democratisation was being expressed by the New Greek Cinema mainly through
political allegory. Anna is a pariah in the system.
She is a woman, a servant, and an internal migrant, a peasant who left her village for the city. Anna is subject to class
oppression, cultural oppression, and gender oppression. The engagement is a social institution which, together with
marriage, defines one aspect of the management of women΄s fate. As will happen in Brides, the lives and desires
of women are managed by others; apparently, Voulgaris became preoccupied with the concept of management
of women΄s lives quite early on. I would readily employ the working hypothesis that, although The
Engagement of Anna was made before the fall of junta in 1974, it belongs to the period after it.
As some sort of herald, it touches on certain subjects which were clearly and articulately
expressed following the feminist movement revival after 1974; later, they were brought
to the fore through women directors Tonia Marketaki, Frida Liappa and several others.
In the late years of the junta, Anna's character—as conceived by Voulgaris and Koumantareas and played by Vagena
—outlines the oppression of female desire, the submission of the female gender, the inhibitions of women against
breaking through the walls of their prison, and frustration as a component of women΄s fate."
- Yianna Athanassatou
"One of Greece's most respected veteran directors, Pantelis Voulgaris--who's virtually unknown outside Europe--has
earned a reputation as a subtle prober of his country's social strata and a sensitive observer of the psychological
shifts in everyday life. His debut feature, The Engagement of Anna (1972), which opens the Film Center's
mini retrospective, serves as a lucid introduction to his main thematic concerns and his understated yet
insightful visual style. Much of the film's action takes place in a courtyard of a bourgeois family in an
Athens suburb, as family members gather for the first meeting between the maid Anna and her
suitor. Gradually their posturing, bantering, and asides--presented as casual cinema verite--
reveal a hypocrisy and condescension beneath the altruistic facade. In contrast, Anna, the
poor village girl who's been "adopted" by the grandmother, is shown as an island of
seriousness and quiet strength; her docility only strengthens her moral appeal.
The film's mood darkens after Anna and the prospective bridegroom spend the
night out on the town: the family now suspects the worst and demands that
Anna remain a servant and a spinster. With compassion but also a critical
distance Voulgaris unfolds Anna's anguish in having to choose between
her future happiness and the needs of her two families. Her choice is
a harsh indictment of a class system in which a working-class girl is
always a sacrificial lamb. In the excellent ensemble acting--which
at times seems improvised--Anna Vayena's portrayal of Anna
stands out as an excellent study in stoicism."
- Ted Shen
Watch the film and post your thoughts on or around Saturday, June 15th. Or sooner. Or later. Just participate!
DROPBOX | KG
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