A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
There is a bittersweet loneliness in the life of an exile that exerts a romantic appeal to many people. They see themselves as a mysterious figure on a Mediterranean island, seen by all, known to few, living a life of intense privacy in full view. The problem with such a life is that it cannot sustain trust; the very essence of exile is the belief that one can only really count on oneself.
Basil Pascali is a man with such a belief, and at the beginning of “Pascali’s Island” we see him at his window, his pen in hand, looking out over the harbor where a stranger is being brought ashore. Pascali (Ben Kingsley) is a spy. The year is 1908, and he has been living on the Greek island of Simi for 20 years or more, faithfully filing his reports to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He cannot even remember when one of his reports was acknowledged, but his payment still arrives regularly, and so he mails out his reports just as faithfully.
Since there is every likelihood that no one ever reads a word that he writes, why does he persevere? Perhaps it is because, in his exile, he has become a voyeur, feeding off the lives of others as a substitute for the sterility of his own. In the course of this movie, his lifelong practice will have disastrous results.
The stranger that he sees being brought ashore is Anthony Bowles (Charles Dance), an Englishman who claims to be an archeologist. Like almost everyone in this forgotten corner of the world, however, he is probably lying about himself, and his motives can be assumed to be suspicious. He needs a translator for his work, and hires Pascali (who has been careful to put himself in the path of the job).