El Greco

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

"El Greco" is the latest film by Greek director Iannis Smaragdis. The title refers to Domenicos Theotokopoulos, one of the most influential Greek painters of all times, who is more widely known as "El Greco". After seven years of preparations the film was made in 2006 and premiered Greek cinema's on October 18th. A special screening of "El Greco" was organised in Athens on October 15th, and apart from director Smaragdis and the film cast, also attended by Queen Sofia of Spain, former French minister Jack Lang and Vangelis. Shootings have taken place in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete (El Greco's place of birth and childhood) as well as on locations in Spain, the island of Rhodes and Athens (Greece).

Vangelis provided an entirely new and original score for the film. It is the second time Vangelis and Smaragdis work on a film together, after their successful cooperation during the production of "Kavafis" in 1996. It is no coincidence either, as according to Smaragdis “it was his (Vangelis) idea, as well as some Cretan businessmen’s who provided the initial funding to begin production.” The subject is not new to Vangelis either, as in 1995 he dedicated a full album to the paintings of El Greco ("FOROS TIMIS STON GKREKO") to raise funds for the purchase of Domenicos Theotokopoulos' painting 'Saint Peter' by the National Gallery (Alexandros Soutzos Museum) in Athens.

When asked, director Iannis Smaragdis has stated about the project: “It is the epic story of a Greek artist who refused to compromise, a fighter for freedom. It is a journey of light which tries to transcend the darkness of its times and reach the realm of the divine”.

"I was born in Heraklion in Crete, 300 meters away from the house of El Greco. I lived under the sky that gave birth to him, I was baptized in the sea in which he swam, I loved the same Cretans that brought him to the world and I yearned for the same journey beyond the sea that entraps our island, Crete. The Cretans are a strange clan of Greeks with their own distinct characteristics. They are uncompromising and free (like El Greco and author Nikos Kazantzakis) but also great lovers of the pleasures of life and adventure (again like Greco and fictional hero Zorbas)".

Why then a film about El Greco by a Greek?
"Precisely because this strange and creative individual, El Greco, in whom lives the great soul of his land, has won international recognition by preserving the characteristics of his clan during the hardships, and did not yield even before his greatest adversary, the Holy Inquisition."

Why a film about El Greco today?
"Because he is a hero that draws the juices of life, strange and fascinating, who fought against the darkness and ignorance of his time and won. A positive figure who can become a role model for the people of today and tomorrow, and give faith and hope to each of us to find our own way to freedom."

Apart from the usual sponsors (the Greek Film Center, ERT Greek Radio & Television and Nova), three Cretan municipalities — those of Heraklion, Gazi and Chersonissos — are also backing the project financially. According to Smaragdis, the budget for the joint Greek, Spanish, Italian and British production is far beyond the means of the Greek Film Centre.

The young British actor Nick Ashdon plays the title role, while the script, based on a story by Dimitris Nollas and Panayiotis Paschidis (from Dimitris Siatopoulos’ book "The Painter of God") has been co-written by UK writer Jackie Pavlenko (together with Smaragdis). The film also features local actor and comedian Lakis Lazopoulos, who plays a Cretan shepherd that was Theotokopoulos' companion and protector in his travels. Smaragdis describes Lazopoulos as “a character who plays the role of the country’s conscience, a reflection of its spirit.”

The movie is expected to premiere in European cinemas on October 18th 2007.


Details and Credits
El Greco (2007)

Directed by Iannis Smaragdis
Produced by Helen Smaragdis
Spanish co-producer: Raimon Masllorens
Hungarian co-producer: Dénes Szekeres

Music by Vangelis

Script by Jackie Pavlenko and Iannis Smaragdis
Script Advisor: Phil Parker
Original Story by Dimitris Nollas, Iannis Smaragdis and Panayotis Paschidis

Director of Photography: Aris Stavrou
Costumes Design by Lala Huete
Art Direction by Damianos Zarifis

Takis Yannopoulos: Editor
Marinos Athanasopoulos: Sound Engineer
Argyro Kouroupou: Make up
Niki Psimouli: Hair

Contributors: Alexandros Film, La Productora, Tivoli, Greek Film Centre, ERT, Nova, Le Spot, Max and Odeon Cineplex
With the support of the MEDIA II PROGRAMME of the European Union

The script is based on a free adaptation of the book "The Painter of God", a fictional biography by Dimitris Siatopoulos



bulletNick Ashdon (El Greco)
bulletGuan Diego Botto (Guevara)
bulletLaia Marull (Jeronyma)
bulletLakis Lazopoulos (Nicolos)
bulletDimitra Matsouka (Francesca)
bulletSotiris Moustakas (Titiano)
bulletDina Consta (Maid)
bulletGiorgos Christodoulou (Da Rimi)
bulletDimitris Kallivokas (Chacon)
bulletGiorgos Haralampidis (El Greco's father)
bulletThodoris Zoumpoulidis (Manousos)
bulletLida Protopsalti (Carcadil's wife)
bulletKaterina Helmi (Spanish noble woman)
bulletFermi Reixach (de las Cuevas)
bulletRoger Coma (Paravicino)
bulletYannis Bezos
bulletDimitris Kataleifos
bulletChristos Kalavrouzos
bulletGiovanna Mezzogiorno
bulletEleni Kastani
bulletTassos Palandzidis

The movie is now in post-production and expected to reach European cinemas on October 18th 2007.

“An epic tale of an uncompromising artist and fighter for freedom, Domenicos Theotokopoulos, known to the world as "El Greco".

Set in the 16th century, El Greco’s search for freedom, and love, ranges from the courts of Crete and Venice to Toledo in Spain. Here he is confronted by his greatest adversary the Holy Inquisition. Never backing down in his fight with the establishments of his day El Greco’s story is one of unusual heroism, betrayal, love, and the power of one man and his creative consciousness to stand out and overcome barbarity and ignorance.

An inspiration which lives on to this day."