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If these links no longer work, view the film's opening scene here.
When I watch Zorba the Greek, I am immediately transported back to the almost two years I lived and worked in Piraeus.
The movie faithfully follows the storyline of Nikos Kazantzakis's book. My favourite is the opening scene of a rained-out day spent in a harbourside taverna in Piraeus which reminds me of the many similar days full of melancholy I spent in almost identical tavernas.
The narrator, a young Greek intellectual by the name of Basil, resolves to set aside his books for a few months to travel to Crete in order to re-open a disused lignite mine and immerse himself in the world of peasants and working-class people.
Taking shelter in a harbourside taverna, he is about to dip into his copy of Dante's Divine Comedy when he feels he is being watched; he turns around and sees a man of around sixty peering at him through the glass door. The man enters and immediately approaches him to ask for work. He claims expertise as a chef, a miner, and player of the santuri, or cimbalom, and introduces himself as Alexis Zorba.
The narrator is fascinated by Zorba's lascivious opinions and expressive manner and decides to employ him as a foreman. On their way to Crete, they have a great many lengthy conversations, about a variety of things, from life to religion, each other's past and how they came to be where they are now, and the narrator learns a great deal about humanity from Zorba that he otherwise would not have gleaned from his life of books and paper.
Unlike Basil, I never had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a Zorba. Couldn't we all benefit from such an acquaintance and such memorable quotes? Zorba is Everyman with a Greek accent!
"Life is trouble; only death is not."
"This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale."
"Let your youth have free reign, it won't come again, so be bold and no repenting."
"Every perfect traveller always creates the country where he travels."
"Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes that see reality."
"How simple a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple heart."
"A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares to cut the rope and be free..."
"When you've made up your mind, no use lagging behind, go ahead and no relenting."
Basil: "Are you married?"
Zorba: "Am I not a man? And is not a man stupid? I’m a man. So I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe."
P.S. Of course, everybody knows that Zorba's dance originated in Australia some 40,000 years ago:
(By the way, a South American scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain and sexual activity read with their hand on the mouse.
DON'T BOTHER TAKING IT OFF NOW. IT'S TOO LATE!!!)