A young, borderline austere Englishman visits a small village in Greece to claim his inheritance and finds a middle-aged man who helps him learn more about life- this is Zorba the Greek in a sentence. The 1964 film while telling a simple tale of two men tries to teach the audience much more than required, becoming preachy at times but it still leaves the audience with a bittersweet feeling when it ends.
When an Englishman- Basil visits Crete- A small village in Greece to claim his inheritance, he meets Zorba- A middle-aged man whose behaviour seems odd at first. During the course of their meeting, Zorba convinces Basil to take him along to Crete to help him out with the work Basil has in his mind. From then on both of them embark on a journey of multiple failures and nothing good happens to them and the people around them.
Crete is a small village in Greece. Poverty is rampant and people struggle to survive. In the film, there are several characters that are deeply affected by these two men. Firstly there is a French woman- Madame Hortense a hotel owner who misses her youth and the men she dated, then there is a widow who is constantly tormented by the village men. Madame Hortense and Zorba develop a relationship and the widow and Basil fall in love.
The work that Basil wanted to do is constantly riddled with problems. First, he tries to mine for lignite but that plan fails miserably then both of them decide to use wood logs to mine. Zorba comes up with a plan for this but that plan also eventually fails. As for the women, Madam Hortense dies of illness and her hotel is robbed by the villagers as soon as she dies. The widow is killed by the villagers for spite with no fault of her own.
Even though all these horrible things happen, Zorba seems to not care of the result, he spreads happiness around him and even convinces Basil that hardships are short-lived, the best thing to do when things are in ruin is dance. Zorba dances his worries away, he is an artist at heart, an audacious lover of life. The message of the film is clear- there is no point in worrying or dwelling on the misfortunes, it better to not worry and live life at the fullest.
What a wonderful message Zorba has, he always laughs away his hardship and teaches Basil to do this as well. When their plan fails miserably both of them dance on the Beach, and laugh their misfortunes away.
When the widow is murdered publicly, Basil does absolutely nothing as if he didn’t even know her. Zorba tries to save her but fails. When Madame Hortense dies she is not given a funeral by the villagers because she was a French. Zorba too denies her a funeral by stating that she is dead, it makes no difference. It made me question both these men, whether they really loved these women which in turn led me to think whether this being happy thing actually makes sense or not.
When everything is said and done and the film ends, I couldn’t help but wonder that yes it might be better to laugh away the misfortunes but that does not make them go away. The misfortunes stay. When a life is lost it is lost forever, when a fortune is lost it leaves the person in ruin and when everything is used upon a plan and it fails miserably, no option is left.
It is a appealing concept- to be happy, even in misfortunes but a lesson must be learned otherwise it makes a person a happy failure, a fool in simple terms. Zorba: The Greek is in no way a bad film, in fact it’s a really good film. The message(?) of the film however for me is questionable. Or am I missing the point here? I get that the film was made in 1964 and modern standards of morality didn’t exist but love and humanity did exist back then as well.
End of rant. Listen to the wonderful song from the film: