Harry Mavromichalis’ Olympia delivers a deeply personal and philosophical documentary, following Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis over the course of several years.
Beginning as Olympia turns 80, the film shows present day accolades and daily living, whilst interjecting stories and footage from her past. There is a heavy theme of Dukakis’ reflection on her origin and purpose, which although is not an original theme in documentary, is fresh coming from a woman of such quirkiness and eccentricity.
As a viewer who is not so familiar with Dukakis’ career, what struck me about the documentary is how Mavromichalis has captured the peaks and troths of womanhood and how that fits within the entertainment industry. We see Dukakis receiving a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, a flash back to her Oscar win, but also raw performances taken from her illustrious stage career.
It’s easy to see why he wanted to capture this woman’s career. The third act of film takes an unexpected turn, as Dukakis’ and the women of her family take a pilgrimage to the village in Greece where their relatives originated. There is a shift to theology and lineage which goes further than roots, to a mini-study on women in power and the role of woman in religion, history and mythology.
It’s certainly a jolt in tone, yet it somewhat reflects the life of Dukakis. There is a scene where she watches a turtle being released back into the wild. She comments on how it pauses, before tasting more of the sea and going forward before another break, and how she feels like that turtle. This documentary is a bit like that turtle too.
We watch, we pause, we try some more, eventually being released into the ‘wild’, or, the core of her self.
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