This film attempts to merge George Seferis’ poem, Helen and Euripides’ tragedy Helen, as well as the history of modern Cyprus in the wider historical context of Hellenism. On the countenance of both Helen and Teucer, the visionary and timeless work of the two creators reminds us of the struggles of latter Hellenism, which are ultimately not awarded a fair dealing.
The film incorporates archival material with dramatized and abstract frames of Helen’s and Teucers’ journey, and relates the events of the Trojan war with those of the catastrophe of Asia Minor, the struggle of Freedom in Cyprus between 1955-59, the declaration of Independence in 1960, the conflict of the two communities, and the Turkish invasion. The film doesn’t ‘return’ merely to the past but transports it to the present by making obvious how these affairs continue to have an effect on Cyprus today.
The bold reach of the director is a means by which to become problematised about the significance of the two texts in juxtaposition with the modern historical passage of Cyprus. How is it, in other words, that chronologically distant historical periods are comparable, if not because identities cross and re-congregate, therefore, making sameness unneeded and difference acknowledged.
From the far past to the very present and near future, communities have been building and collapsing. While the former Yugoslavia was ferociously dissected, and occupied Palestine continues to be brutally isolated and oppressed, there are, nevertheless, incidents of positive change, as for example, the unification of Berlin, current visions to create a single government to unite Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an ongoing plan to fully incorporate Hong Kong into China.
Identity continues to be a present day “problem”. But is it? Whether we refer to human identity, that of the individual and her/his ethical inclinations, or ethnic identity, that pertaining to the community from which we develop social behaviours, ideologies, phobias, etc, the question of “who we are” is not uncomplicated, but is it a “problem” to be resolved or a condition to be traversed?
Divided communities with similar histories, and diverse religions which have, however, matured parallel in a world of cross-cultural identities determined by fluid mobilities, can provide us with new ways of living in a world beginning to disintegrate by global warming, growing hostile by anti-democratic right-wing extremist politics, and disappearing from over-consumption in an age when natural resources are depleting.