Dear Nia Vardalos, about those columns
A moviegoer hopes that in Nia Vardalos's latest film, she will correct a mistake about the Parthenon's columns.
For a long time, I have been fascinated with ancient Greece – its history, its playwrights and poets, its mythology, its architecture.Skip to next paragraph
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So in the 2002 movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," when Toula Portokalos (played by Nia Vardalos) describes her family's house as being like the Parthenon, complete with Corinthian columns, I was taken aback. Yes, the house did have Corinthian columns on the first level and Ionic ones on the upper story, but the Parthenon has neither. Its columns are Doric.
Maybe nobody else who has seen this romantic comedy noticed the mistake, but it distracted me from fully enjoying the delightful film. As a retired teacher, I have strong feelings about the importance of presenting accurate facts.
And I'm not the only one. For example, when publications give wrong information, they quickly print a correction.
But is there anything to do about mistakes in movies?
Well, I felt I had to write to Ms. Vardalos, who wrote the script for the movie, in a matter-of-fact way and mention the columns. Perhaps not surprisingly, I never received a reply. Maybe she thought I was being petty or that my concern about historical accuracy wasn't all that important in her film.
But last fall in Athens, I was atop the Acropolis at the same time as she was. An American film studio was shooting a new movie there., ("My Life in Ruins" will open Aug. 28.).
Vardalos wore large gold hoop earrings; a turquoise, knee-length dress; and open-toed, high-wedge shoes. Slung over her shoulder was a huge brown purse with a long strap. From my vantage point, her makeup looked perfect. She was slim, and her curly hair reached below her shoulders.
After the cameramen had filmed several takes, the movie star smiled and hugged cast members.
Not far away, three huge cranes were poised to begin work transferring the massive, priceless contents of the Acropolis Museum to a new museum down in the city the following day. Elsewhere, this scheduled move had made the world news, but the filming atop Athena's hill diverted the tourists' attention.
The filmmakers used huge reflectors to shoot the scene, and some of the local crew had a special assignment: Keep the tourists moving around the roped-off area near the set so that they would not get in the way – or take photos of Nia.
I was somewhat compliant, kept out of the crew's way, and did not interfere with their shooting, but I disagreed about their right to restrict my movements. After all, it was normal public hours to visit the temple, and I had paid full-price admission to climb up the hill. So I didn't resist the urge to use my digital camera with its wonderful zoom lens.
Afterward, I was tempted to walk casually past the movie crew's guards and in a polite and friendly manner, introduce myself to Vardalos as her "column" correspondent.
Then, I thought, to prove my point in situ, I would point to the Parthenon's columns.
But I didn't do it.
I decided that in her new film, Vardalos has a unique opportunity to correct the misinformation for moviegoers (including me). In it, she plays the part of a tour guide, a profession that in the real world takes pride in sharing accurate information.
In that role, I hope she will correctly identify the columns in Pericles's 5th-century masterpiece.
Either way, I plan to write her another letter.