Letter to Theo (2019) is a meditative film and a homage to the late, much celebrated Greek filmmaker, Theo Angelopoulos, who died tragically whilst in the process of making his final film on the economic crisis tearing apart the social fabric of his society. Greece was adversely impacted by the 2008 world economic crisis which left a trail of destitution, economic devastation, unemployment, social unrest and political chaos across the globe in its wake. The documentary is directed by Elodie Lelu and beautifully narrated by Swiss-French actor Irene Jacob, the star of his 2008 film ‘The Dust of Time’.
The filmmaker died on January 24th, 2012 on the set of his final and unfinished film run over by a motorbike. Assistance failed to show because the ambulance sent to rescue him broke down on its way to save him. Tragically, he himself fell victim to the economic crisis gripping the country where services, upkeep, wages and pensions were cut. The documentary goes beyond to addressing the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis in Greece but to include the refugee crisis it faces. Following the economic crisis, Greece, a gateway to Europe, saw the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war ravaged countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Upon the closing of European borders, tens of thousands of refugees became trapped in Greece, a country not only enmeshed in economic woes but saw the ascent of political power for Golden Dawn, a far right party, which became the third-largest political party in the Hellenic Parliament.
The narrative and subject matter of his last film and the plight of refugees in Greece and organised resistance of both Greeks and refugees working together are juxtaposed against the director’s backstory, creative thought process, and motivation for making films, archival footage, clips of his famous films including The Suspended Step of the Stork, Ulysses’ Gaze, Landscape in the Mist, and Days of 36, and the simmering tensions and hostilities inside Greek society past and present.
The director weaves together many visual elements to create a beautiful homage to the late director. Lelu uses interstitial titles to structure the documentary working back from the tragic day the filmmaker died on January 24, 2012. The film is beautifully crafted making use of long takes (homage to Angelopoulos who was know for his long takes in his films), verite film making, narration, super-imposed images, archival footage, clips from the director’s most famous films, and still photography to create a visually stunning and emotionally moving film. It is a beautiful testament to a celebrated filmmaker and shines a light on his humanity and philosophy and approach to film making. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed.