Film Review – Echoes Of The Past (2021)


In December 1943, occupying German troops rounded up every male aged twelve and older in the Greek town of Kalavryta and led them to the hill overlooking the town. Once there, the men and boys were machine gunned down, killing all but thirteen and exterminating the male population of the town. The women and children were locked in the local school, which was set ablaze along with the rest of the town. The woman and children managed to escape but the town was left devastated and ruined by the massacre, which remains one of the largest single massacres committed on Greek soil.

This terrible tragedy is the basis for Echoes of the Past, a fictional drama which sees an aging writer recount his childhood as a young boy who escaped the massacre. Meanwhile, a German lawyer is tasked by her government to find any details that might undermine the case against them for reparations. In this way, the film moves back and forth from flashbacks of 1943 to scenes in the present day.

Max von Sydow takes on the role of writer Nikolas, the writer who is haunted by the past and the family that he lost. Von Sydow may only have a small role here, but it is a role in which he has the expertise and gravitas to pull off even with minimal screen time. Sadly, this film would mark the final role of Von Sydow who passed away in 2020 and is remembered posthumously here.

Echoes of the Past does feel very much like a film split into separate parts. On the one hand, the audience is taken back to the occupation, which is dark, brutal and tense. Whilst, on the other hand, the audience follows lawyer Caroline in scenes which are much more clinical. Meanwhile, Nikolas reminisces on his past in quiet and morose scenes. Somehow, these scenes don’t quite manage to fit together in a way which lets the film flow, and the result is that some parts are less engaging and slightly stilted. Undoubtedly, Echoes of the Past is at its most interesting when addressing the events which led to the appalling tragedy.

However, there is a caveat to all of this in that Echoes of the Past, a film which attempts to vividly stir up the past, has actually stirred up controversy and even a lawsuit against the producers of the film. The Association of Victims of the Kalavryta Holocaust have been angered by the film and have accused the filmmakers of falsifying the historical events. In particular, the controversy surrounds a scene in which a German soldier is shown unlocking the burning school in which the women and children are trapped and consequently rescuing them. A heroic act by one of the opposing soldiers is heavily disputed by survivors and the association said that they received assurances from the filmmakers that such an act would not be included in the film.

Director Nicholas Dimitropoulos disputes the claims and hopes that the film is educational in making the tragedy more widely known. He also stated that he hoped that the film would help future generations avoid making the same mistakes.

Echoes of the Past does do its job in making a wider audience aware of the horrendous events of the past, however there is an inherent danger in creating a fictional drama around such an event where what is fact and what is fiction can be so easily misconstrued. Echoes of the Past is a thought provoking and watchable drama with a powerful performance from Von Sydow but should be watched with a view to researching the true event.


Drama | Greece, 2021 | 15 | Digital HD | 21st February 2022 (UK) | Reel 2 Reel Films | Dir.Nicholas Dimitropoulos | Max von Sydow, Astrid Roos, Danae Skiadi, Alice Krige, Maximos Livieratos