God may love caviar but I did not love the film. I wanted to, desperately. I am Greek so I *really* wanted this to be an awesome, magical film... it wasn't.
The story starts off great, as being told by Varvakis' loyal footman, on a sandy beach of Zakynthos (Zante), to a bunch of children. It starts like a beautiful fairytale, but gets confusing very quickly.
It feels like there are 500 people being introduced into the film and we don't even get to get their names. There is zero, and I mean zero, depth to them. As a Greek, I recognized all the Greek actors, some of them pretty popular in Greece, who only got maybe 5 minutes of acting... some only 30 seconds on screen. We are never told who they are, why they are doing the things they are doing...
Another issue I had was, that time was not acknowledged as passing. We see Varvakis who is dressed as a Cretan but we later find out by accident he was from the island of Psarra, getting introduced to his baby girl who is at the time less than a year old. Then then next solid time reference we get is, it is 10 years later in Russia. He doesn't appear aged one bit and his daughter appears all the way from Greece, but instead of the child being 11-12 years old, she looks to be about 30-ish (yet Varvakis is still the same, not a single gray hair, he could have posed as his wife).
Another thing that struck me as odd was the choice of key actors... they were ugly. I am not used to seeing unattractive people on screen. No, I did not expect to see models but at least some sort of make-up, some sort of aesthetics... their looks made them uninteresting.
Another thing is, there is no explaining of historical facts at all. For instance all the references to the Greek Revolution were only understood by the audience, because we are Greek and we have been taught our history in school. However when some history of Russia popped up during the film, we had no clue and no explanation was given. I imagine if this film makes it to an international audience, unless they are avid history buffs, they will be mystified as well. I imagine the film was intended to be presented to an international audience, because the lead is a German actor, and the whole thing is shot in English.
There are positive aspects of the film as well. Sebastian Koch is absolutely magnificent in his role. He is very believable and convincing. So is Evgeniy Stychkin!! These two make the film barely watchable and bravo to them!! Another bravo to all the Greek actors, who for once!, learned their lines in English perfectly and with a good accent!!
Taking into consideration all the biographical films I have seen, this attempt seems cheap and amateurish. The story was there, it was an interesting life but it felt half-baked and soulless. I did not connect with a single character except his footman (Evgeniy Stychkin). There was no drama, no thrill, no romance, no danger... it felt like reading the newspaper to me. The costumes were also very cheap, you could tell, there was no detailing.. they felt like Halloween costumes. However the sets were very nice!!
In short, amateurish attempt, felt like reading a biography in Reader's Digest to me. I was left confused and in a blur about what had happened, the time line in which it happened and couldn't remember a single character from the dozens that were presented to us other than the two main ones...
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