And while Greece is considered the homeland and the cradle of theater, when it comes to film, this country from the south of Europe was placed on the world map only in the 60s by director Michael Kakoyanis and composer Mikis Theodorakis with the hit “Grk zorba”. In the 1970s, the art filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos appeared, who is still considered the most important Greek filmmaker, their counterpart to Tarkovsky, but it is clear that films were shot there earlier as well. One of the most famous films of that “pre-Kakoyanisian” cinematography in which we got to know Greece as a place of primordial entertainment, eating and drinking, dancing and singing, and which soon turned into an escapist oasis for American and Western European intellectuals, was “O Drakos” or ” The Ogre of Athens” by Nikos Koundouros.
Just like the vast majority of European countries and their post-war filmmakers, neorealism prevailed in Greece in the fifties under the influence of Italian filmmakers such as Rosselini or De Sica, and Koundouros made a departure from that style with this absurdist, existentialist drama. The center of attention is Thomas, an almost invisible and faceless bank clerk whom no one notices until he himself accidentally notices that he bears an uncanny physical resemblance to a well-known criminal called the Dragon (Drakos in Greek). In search of some excitement in life, Thomas will soon start posing as the Dragon, and will soon become the leader of a criminal organization that mostly meets in a nightclub.
In the same night club where people drink, sing and dance all night long, the action of the film, which was shot under the equal influence of neorealism, but also German expressionism of the twenties and Greek tragedy, takes place. After all, this is Greece, so the whole story must end tragically, since the middle-aged and not very attractive Thomas will fatally fall in love with a young and beautiful singer who performs in a bar. As was often the case with films that were well ahead of their time, “O drakos” experienced both a commercial and critical debacle after its premiere in Venice.
However, over time, it became one of the first classics of modern Greek cinema, and it was only later recognized that it is actually a politically engaged film in which Greek society is subverted after the civil war between communists and nationalists after World War II, and Greek dependence and subjugation to the West. . Koundouros himself pointed out in later interviews that “O Drakos” is a multi-layered parable in which the criminal underworld is presented in a somewhat humorous tone. It is a film that is considered one of the first films of the Greek new wave, after which many other filmmakers there began to experiment and play with narrative canons established until then.