Omiros (Hostage) Reviews
Stathis Papadopoulos is excellent as the kidnapper. The film is well cast because Arto Apartian as the bus driver, and Yannis Stankoglou and Theordora Tzimou as the secret lovers, give their roles the required depth so that each character is structured differently. Director Constantine Giannaris has many flashbacks in the middle to give background to Papadopoulos' character's motivation. It seems the outrage is justiified but the torture scenes get too one-sided. Are the Greeks soldiers such brutes? He could have give us perspective on the media, the hostage's family, or the general public. It's like "Speed" but cutting to the background of Keanu Reeves or Dennis Hopper. Overall, lovers of foreign films like me are satisfied with the Greek country landscape scenes and the cultural differences between Greeks and Albanians.
I do not pretend to understand the situation in Albania. There is so much conflict and unrest in the world that you have to be working a lot harder than I to keep up. I know that Albania was, during the Cold War, very insular. I know that most of Europe is not a good place for immigrants, and I know that every country has its own immigrant population that is particularly reviled. Don't get me wrong--this is true in the US, too, though I suspect how good or bad things are varies widely from country to country. The impression this film has given me is that, in Greece, the group in question is the Albanians. Given the poor state the fall of Communist regimes has left many countries in, it wouldn't surprise me, and after all, Greece is just right there. On the other hand, there is the constant nativist belief. They're Taking Our Jobs. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. It seems to be the attitude that's driving events.
Elion Senja (Stathis Papadolpoulos) is a wronged man. He was framed by the Greek police for the possession of illegal weapons. His documents were destroyed so that he could be framed for illegal entry into the country. Back home in Albania, he was . . . well. His memories of Albania are conflicting, and what he tells people is almost certainly as much to make himself more important as anything else. For reasons I am not entirely clear on, his solution to his problems is to hijack a bus, demand a large ransom, and take bus and ransom and hostages to Tirana, where he will apparently live happily ever after. Obviously, the Greek authorities are not so jazzed about this. Nor are the hostages. He lets most of the passengers go, but he keeps a half-dozen or so, and of course the driver, to serve as a bargaining chip. I missed the passengers' names, so we will not, I am afraid, be going into who played whom. We learn some about these characters, and some about Elion's mother, but most of what matters, at least so far as I'm concerned, is the journey.
Elion is not shown as a perfect person. As I said, I cannot understand what he thinks he's going to accomplish here. Okay, so he gets to Tirana with his money. Is everyone going to just roll over and let him keep it? He says he's trying to bring attention to his wrongful treatment, but this is not a good way to go about that. If I have pieced the story together correctly (there is some time spent in flashback), part of why he went to Greece was to earn the money that would let him marry someone. However, when he is in Greece, he encounters what I think is the sister of the police officer who frames him, fools around with her, and gets her pregnant. This is the reason given, I think, for the treatment of Elion in the first place--and I think there's just a hint that, if he were Greek instead of a dirty Albanian, the whole thing would have gone quite differently. But more important to me, at least, is that Elion is young and stupid. For one, he makes a big deal of declaring his name over and over again, even before he tries to capture media attention. And then once he has that attention, he doesn't really do much with it.
All that being said, he does arouse sympathy. Even if I don't know why he thought it would work, he does really believe that things will be so much better for him now. He is (mostly) kind to his hostages, though he reacts badly when people point out weaknesses in his plan. He will not eat, because the food might be drugged. On the other hand, he falls asleep at least once. I think, though, that everyone is afraid of how he will react upon waking, and I think a few of them, if not all, have genuine sympathy themselves for his plight. There is also the fact that most of them have things they are escaping themselves. One of the passengers is leaving her husband and child for another of them. There is a woman who will not answer her father's pleas one of the times the bus stops. And there is a young man with a pierced eyebrow who keeps watch for his lover every time they stop. I suspect the black passenger has some sort of an accent, but I wouldn't be able to hear it if he does. Either way, he, too, is an outsider.
This is, apparently, based on a true story, though I cannot seem to find any information on it. At least not in English. IMDB has little information. Wikipedia has none. If I spoke Greek--or possibly Albanian!--I would probably be able to learn more about this, but for now, we're stuck talking about only what appears onscreen. And the fact is, it's a horribly depressing story, in the end. I don't think most of the people on the bus know what they want, and those who do either don't seem to know how to get it or are afraid of it. Elion's poor mother is being pulled between her love for her son and the pressure two governments are putting on her. She is lied to several times over the course of the movie, though frankly she's an idiot for believing they wouldn't tell her what she wanted to hear in order to get what they wanted from her.