A Touch of Spice follows the life of Fanis lakovides. Through subjective flashbacks, the story unravels into a heartfelt first-person narration of the massive Greek deportation from Istanbul between 1955 and 1978 and its effects on the lives of those involved. At the start of the film Fanis is an aging astrophysics professor that has not seen his grandfather in decades. The reason for this is explained through flashbacks into Fanis’s childhood, starting in Turkey and moving passed the deportation into Athens.
Originally, Fanis is an active youth with a strong bond to his grandfather, who owns a spice shop in Constantinople. Through spices, his grandfather teaches Fanis about the stars and planets as well as life. Fanis also falls in love during this time with a young Turkish girl named Saime, who he teaches how to cook. In 1964 the family is forcibly exiled to Athens with only Fanis’s grandfather remaining in Constantinople because of his Turkish citizenship. While in Athens, Fanis tries desperately to cope with not only leaving his home but also his beloved grandfather and childhood sweetheart. After numerous failed attempts to see his grandfather Fanis finally forgets his culinary dreams and grows to become a highly revered astrophysicist. Finally, an aged Fanis travels to Istanbul to visit his grandfather only to find him dead. He rekindles his love with Saime, his childhood sweetheart, just in time for her to return to her incredibly Turkish militant husband. In all, Fanis grows to exemplify modern Greece as a man with strong affection and memories of Turkey (Saime) but that must cope with the reality of its disunion and conflict (exemplified by Saime’s husband).
A Touch of Spice, in essence, is a period piece that uses an immense amount of nondiegetic artistic additives to create its scenes. The first flashbacks of Constantinople are marked with soothing, cultural music to inspire a sense of emotion between the audience and the city. Much like the characters, the viewers are made to feel a sense of comfort or familiarity with Constantinople. In contrast, Fanis’s impression of Athens lacks the warmth of Constantinople. With the exception of scenes involving food, music does not exist in the Greek scenes.
The scenes between Fanis and his grandfather are comforting with warm lighting and the same soothing music. The lighting becomes clear, if not harsh upon Fanis’s arrival in Athens. The haze of childhood quite literally escapes the camera as the film moves into more modern times. The colors chosen for the Greek sets lack the homeliness of the spice shop in Constantinople. These color pallet differences are increased by the heavy increase of white light used on the Greek scenes versus Turkish ones.
The transition period in which Fanis discovers his family’s imminent deportation exhibits dark lighting and ominous music. The first hint of this is shown when a diplomat enters his grandfather’s store. Slow drumming couples the diplomat’s arrival as well as shadows and dark lighting. The Greek Orthodox Church his family then goes to is dark with shadows as ominous music plays over. The moment his father is told of his mandatory deportation the film literally stops. The camera cuts to a clock, blocking out the actors, the settings, and no music plays at this moment. The world has stopped in the eyes of Fanis.