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Greece: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Myrtos Beach on the island Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece. Copyright Liz Alvey 2013
Myrtos Beach on the island Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece. 

Greece: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Guest Post by Liz Alvey

Bougainvillea in Fiscardo on the island Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece. Copyright Liz Alvey 2013
Bougainvillea in Fiscardo
For many years when I travelled to Greece, it seemed like every other person on the journey to Kefalonia was reading Louis de Bernieres’ novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.  Knowing my passion for the place, a friend bought me a copy. Never one to follow the crowd, I resisted reading it. Then one winter’s day, in need of sun and light in my life, I settled down to read it.  And devoured it in one sitting.

I will admit that the first 50 pages created doubts. But then I was hooked. The painful love story of the Italian Captain and the doctor’s daughter could have been just another romance. But the setting against the brutality of the Second World War and the hardships faced by the islanders adds another dimension. Whilst the story may be fiction, I know from the recollections of elderly Kefalonians, that the consequences of resistance and the punishments meted out are still keenly felt, decades later.

Lighthouse near Fiscardo on the island Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece. Copyright Liz Alvey 2013
Lighthouse Fiscardo, Kefalonia
As always it is the characters that hold me fast.  The quixotic Corelli, the passionate Pelagia, the pragmatic Doctor Yannis.  And perhaps most of all the loyal and tragic Carlo.

I didn’t visit Kefalonia whilst they were making the film of the book, which came out in 2001.  Not deliberate, just a desire to explore some new Greek horizons.  Although the director, John Madden, apparently looked at several potential locations, in the end, the film was shot largely in Kefalonia.  A purpose built set was created near Sami, the island’s main port. The beautiful Antisamos beach served as the location for the Italian camp. Several key scenes were filmed at Myrtos, perhaps the most iconic beach in Greece and one of the most photographed beaches in the world.

Lighthouse near Fiscardo on the island Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece. Copyright  Liz Alvey 2013
Lighthouse near Fiscardo
On my next visit, I heard of grandfathers taking their grandchildren to visit the set. It was by all accounts a memory-jerking re-creation of the formerly beautiful and elegant capital of Argostoli before it was flattened by the 1953 earthquake, which features at the end of the novel.

Sadly, to me at least, the film was not as accurate in its re-creation of the book’s story and themes. And neither Penelope Cruz nor Nicholas Cage fulfilled my mental image of Pelagia and Antonio – not their fault, of course.  I know that no film can replicate the detail of a novel, but for me the tone was too different and the story too focused on the central love story, to the exclusion of some of the subtler sub-plots.

View of Agia Efimia from Sami on the island Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands of Greece. Copyright Liz Alvey 2013
View of Agia Efimia from Sami 
Kefalonia, Greece
But what it did achieve, magnificently, was a stunning visual record of the glories of the landscape and villages of Kefalonia.  And so, in the dank and damp British winter, I regularly re-run the film, skip through the plot and revel in recognizing the mountains, the sea and most of all the glorious, intense light.

The film now acts as an appetizer for your trip to Kefalonia.

Liz Alvey has had an almost 20 year love affair with Greece. As well as repeated visits to her beloved Kefalonia, she has travelled to many other Ionian and Aegean Islands and to Athens.

More Travel Boldly posts on Greece:

Greece: A Kefalonia Love Affair
Greece: adventures in the Ionian Islands

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