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A woman murders her husband, upon his return home after a long absence, with the complicity of the lover who has relieved her loneliness. Costas Ghoussis, an emigrant recently returned to his native country, is coming back from the fields, a shovel on his shoulder. He pushes open the garden gate in front of his house and calls his wife: Eleni! She does not answer; the reason: she is hidden behind the door of the kitchen with another man, Christos, a gamekeeper, the lover that she took during her husband's absence. Just as Costas crosses the threshold he is attacked and strangled. Despite their precautions, a relative of the victim suspects them and alerts the police. The criminals confess their crime. The reconstruction is that of the examining magistrate, whose inquiries are interspersed with sequences of the crime - although the actual murder is never shown - and with a social documentary which a TV unit (including the director himself) is making about the crime and the village. Written by
The plot of Theo Angelopoulos' Reconstruction resembles The Postman Always Rings Twice. A woman and her lover murder her husband and try to plant a plausible story. A police investigation casts suspicion on the couple's story. This time the wife is not Lana Turner, Jessica Lange, or even Clara Calamai. No, the adulterous wife looks like what her character is supposed to be: An illiterate, thirty-five year-old peasant woman, a mother of three. Then, again, her lover is no John Garfield. Reconstruction strips all of the glamor from its noir plot leaving a stark, realist portrayal of stagnation and desperation (as opposed to passion). Its visual look is stark and uninviting. Gone are even the seascapes which Angelopolous captures so well in other movies.
Reconstruction is set in a poor, rural village on a hillside. This is a landscape of stone, dirt, and dark clouds. A narrated prologue informs the viewer that this village's population has dropped from a couple thousand inhabitants to less than one-hundred in twenty years. The young, and even the not so young, are leaving, to Athens, to Germany, anywhere there is a forty hour week and nightclubs and good times. In the beginning of the film, Eleni's husband returns from working overseas. He has been gone for years and Eleni has found a secret lover to replace him. Soon, the husband is dead.
The film alternates between scenes of the police reconstructing the murder, trying to discover which lover was most responsible for the crime, and flashbacks of the lovers trying to cover their tracks. Two journalists show up to interview the citizens of the village (and don't add much to the film). That is about all there is to Reconstruction.
I normally admire director Angelopoulos' films. Many do not, finding them interminably boring. I, however, like the director's visual eye and appreciate the way he plays with time. I did not care much for Reconstruction. The film's pace was slow, even if it is the director's shortest film. The flashback structure did not have the sophistication of, say, Ulysses' Gaze, where years of Christmas celebrations go by in a single shot. Finally, I found the cinematography drab with the exception of two great scenes (a zoom out of Eleni burning evidence on a hilltop; a 360 degree pan around shamed, angry villagers as Eleni and her lover are being loaded onto a police truck).
Reconstruction feels much longer than it really is. It can probably be skipped by non-fans.
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