Maria Panourgia & Sofia Georgovassili in “Mavro Livadi” BR1080 [2009 Greece]

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I’m only beginning to discover Greek cinema, but whatever I’ve seen so far is refreshing (and educational too – for e.g., now I know a Janissary is not a union of workers in the cleaning profession but a Christian boy involuntarily conscripted into the imperial guards of the Ottoman empire, as a kind of ‘blood tribute’ paid by non-Muslim families).

Vardis Marinakis’s Greek drama “Mavro Livadi” [Eng. Title: Black Field] is an unusual romance set in late medieval Greece, when it was apparently part of the Ottoman empire. A Janissary escapes from his masters and ends at the doorstep of a remote convent-nunnery, exhausted and badly wounded. As part of her religious commitment, the Mother superior takes him in and treats his wounds, but also stays loyal to the empire by informing the authorities that they have held a deserted Janissary – the reward would be useful in keeping the convent running. A young nun however falls in love with him, and not only does she help him escape, but also follows him into the forest – a return to nature for both the characters. But the nun has a little secret too – she is a (Christian) boy placed in the convent to avoid being conscripted as a Janissary..!

The film is beautifully made with some stunning cinematography and locations, like the Palamidi castle where many of the scenes were shot. And a lot of thought had gone into the costumes and art direction, which transport us to a Byzantine monastery quite vividly, which gives the film a Gothic feel. If nothing else, it is a substantial visual feast worth savouring, which in Blu-ray is even more sumptuous.



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