Mikis Theodorakis - Writer

Composer. Nationality: Greek. Born: Chios Island, 29 July 1925. Education: Attended the Conservatory of Patras; Athens Conservatory; studied with Messiaen in Paris. Family: Married Myrto Altinoglou, 1953, children: one son and one daughter. Career: Arrested as a student, and deported during the Greek civil war, 1947–52; lived in Europe during most of the 1950s: first film as composer, Barefoot Battalion , 1953; 1961—returned to Greece, and elected to Parliament, 1963, but imprisoned by the military junta, 1967–70, and again in exile; 1974—returned to Greece again, and served as member of Parliament, 1981–85; composer of works for the theater, as well as songs and orchestral works. Awards: British Academy Award, for Z , 1969. Address: 111 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, 75006 Paris France.

Films as Composer:


Barefoot Battalion (Tallas); Eva (Plyta)


Ill Met by Moonlight ( Night Ambush ) (Powell and Pressburger)


Luna de miel ( Honeymoon ) (Powell)


Faces in the Dark (Eady)


The Shadow of the Cat (Gilling)


Manolis (Crosfield); Electra (Cacoyannis); Phaedra (Dassin); Le Couteau dans la plaie ( Five Miles to Midnight ) (Litvak); Les Amants de Teruel ( The Lovers of Teruel ) (Rouleau) (co)


Bloko ( The Blockade ) (Kyrou)


Une Balle au coeur (Pollet); Zorba the Greek (Cacoyannis)


The Day the Fish Came Out (Cacoyannis)


Falak (Kovacs)


Z (Costa-Gavras)


État de Siège ( State of Siege ) (Costa-Gavras); The Trojan Women (Cacoyannis)


Sutiejka (Delic); Serpico (Lumet)


Partizani ( Hell River ) (Jankovic); The Story of Jacob and Joseph (Cacoyannis)


Der Geheimnistrager (Gottlieb)


Actas de Merusia (Litvin); Iphigenia (Cacoyannis)


Asymvivastos ( Easy Road ) (Thomopoulos); Hell River Bad Company (Paulou); Kostas


O Anthropos me to garyfallo ; Nela (Fischer)


Belladonna (Rex); The Savage Hunt (Scavolini) (song)


Mod att leva (Romare)


Les Clowns de dieu (Schmidt)


Sis ( The Mist ) (Livaneli)




Fovou tous Ellines . . . ( Beware of Greeks Bearing Arms ; Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns )



Gia ten Hellenike mousike (on Greek music), Athens, 1961.

Journal de résistance , Paris, 1971, as Journal of Resistance , New York, 1973.

To chreos , 2 vols., Athens, 1971.

Amesa politika proviemata , London, 1972.

Culture et dimensions politiques , Paris, 1972.

Mousike gia tis mazes (on Greek music), Athens, 1972.

Les Fiancés de Pénélope: Conversations avec Denis Bourgeois , Paris, 1975.


Holst, Gail, Theodorakis: Myth and Politics in Modern Greek Music , Amsterdam, 1980.

Phlessas, Giannes, Hodoiporiko me to Mike Theodorake , Aigokeros, 1994.

On THEODORAKIS: articles—

Focus on Film (London), Spring 1974, additions in Spring 1977.

Ecran (Paris), September 1975.

Film Score Monthly (Los Angeles), November 1993.

Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 13, March 1994.

* * *

Although he has become recognized as much for his political involvements as for his compositions, Mikis Theodorakis has had a significant role in the development of contemporary Greek music, not only for films but in other fields as well. His film work, especially for Michael Cacoyannis and Constantin Costa-Gavras, has gained him an international reputation. Theodorakis's music combines folk-oriented pieces and traditional instrumentation with contemporary musical approaches emphasizing rhythmic dancelike pieces, and consequently he has been most often associated with films concerning contemporary ethnic subjects.

Deported in the early 1950s because of his political convictions, Theodorakis moved to Paris where he began composing concert works as well as scores for ballet, theater, and films (primarily in England). He returned to Greece in 1961 and began his association with Cacoyannis, providing an appropriate mixture of modern musical styles and traditional Greek instrumentation to the director's updating of Greek tragedies. The score for Electra shows a tendency toward jazz and rock influences, while the music for Zorba the Greek , one of the composer's most famous scores, contains rhythmic dance pieces that capture of the spirit of the title character's more philosophical nature. The Day the Fish Came Out further demonstrates the composer's familiarity with rock and more experimental musical approaches which nevertheless reflect in their orchestration a nationalistic tradition.

Following his imprisonment in 1967 both his assignments and the music itself became more politically oriented. While the composer maintained his association with Cacoyannis on the film version of The Trojan Women and later, following Theodorakis's return to Greece, on Iphigenia , he also began collaborating with Costa-Gavras. Much of the score for Z was written while the composer was in exile and compiled from previously written material, and lends a decided specificity to the unidentified locale of the film. This, coupled with the awareness of the composer's own political activities, makes the musical messages as significant as those inherent in the script.

While Z made Theodorakis a logical choice for further politically oriented films, the distinct Greek inflections in his scores have not always been appropriate to the subject matter. The score for Serpico contains restrained passages recalling the quieter moments of Zorba , combined with jazzlike themes to provide a contemporary urban sound. The music tries to capture some of the main character's Italian background but much of it still maintains an atmosphere reflecting the composer's own traditions. The score for Costa-Gavras's State of Siege aims for an authentic folk flavor performed by South American musicians, and is particularly effective in its driving percussive passages. While such scores show only marginal ability to break away from his instant identification with a "Greek sound," Theodorakis's body of work for films as a whole serves as a reflection of that country's rich heritage, from its traditional styles to its contemporary musical development.

—Richard R. Ness

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: