Μαύρο Λιβάδ (Mavro Livadi)
English title: Black Field
Directed by Vardis Marinakis
104 min, Greece, 2009
Although I was beguiled by the film’s settings — misty landscapes, shadowy mossy-green forests and the vast, brutal stonework of a mountaintop medieval castle and convent — and intrigued by the historical background — Ottoman suppression of Christians in 1654 Greece — I was less impressed by the love story and performances that the film relies on for its impact.
A wounded Janissary deserter collapses outside the gates of a cloister of nuns. The nuns take him in and nurse him back to health. They keep him bound since none of them trust a man. One nun in particular takes an interest in him, an androgynous young girl named Anthi, who has a secret — that she’s really a boy in disguise, hidden by the nuns as a babe so as not to be kidnapped by the Ottomans and become a Janissary himself.
Anthi is played by a woman and I never believed she was a boy, although the secret is hinted at long before the obviously prosthetic penis comes out during a bathing scene. Anthi falls for The Janissary and helps him escape when he’s ransomed off to the Ottomans who come looking for him. The older man reciprocates until he finds out what’s really between Anthi’s legs, shown once again via the fake penis which the filmmakers were evidently very proud of. After a series of mock-violent rejections he eventually gives in to Anthi’s charms… because androgyny? Because the penis was, after all, fake? Bette Davis eyes? I really don’t know why.
Regardless, maybe this is shocking or surprising to clueless straight people in Greece but really it’s pretty 90s-gutless. Watching this film made me remember seeing The Crying Game in a theater full of the former, albeit American ones. and thinking, This is a surprise? But at least it was a real penis.