Tag: giorgos lanthimos


Alps (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

A nurse (Aggeliki Papoulia), a gymnast (Ariane Labed), a coach (Johnny Vekris), and a paramedic (Aris Servetalis) offer a bizarre service: they approach people in states of grief due to a death of a loved one and offer to take their place. They consider themselves as facilitators between a dark time and acceptance. All seems well until a tennis player (Maria Kirozi) dies and the nurse decides to work with the family of the deceased without consulting her group first. As she gets deeper into the former tennis player’s life, she becomes unaware of the fact that separating her duty from who she becomes increasingly difficult.

Although the premise of “Alpeis,” based on the screenplay by Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos, may seem like a ridiculous gimmick, it is surprising that the material is handled with respect. It inspires us to make our own conclusions with regards to what is happening and its implications instead of spoon-feeding us a plot that follows familiar tracks within a specific genre. Through an unfaltering detachment from its subjects, we as audiences are scientists who are given the chance to observe specimens interact with one another in an isolated environment.

Many will find it strange that people will actually invite total strangers into their lives by playing a role of a loved one who has just passed away. I did not. It is shown several times that each member of the quartet has a certain way of persuasion in order to get something they want. Combine that with people who are hurting and vulnerable, it becomes easier to buy into the reality of the picture. Although the set-up is languorous, it is important to pay attention to the different personalities and their foibles. Without a feel for what each one is about, it is understandable for someone to label the film as an exercise in the abstruse rather than a intelligent commentary of how we take who we are for granted and the extent in which we affect the lives of those we love and care about.

The services performed flow seamlessly with the quartet’s every day lives. There is little attempt to make themselves look like the person they are impersonating. Most depend on behavior like the type of words frequently used, the biting of the nails, and habits after a particular activity. There are no flamboyant wigs, heavy makeup, or changing diction as we come to expect from method actors. It is critical that everything appears normal. The illusion is shattered, however, when the characters start speaking. We are made aware that a job is being performed when people talk to one another in somewhat of a monotone as if reading off a script. There is an uneasy comedic touch in these scenes.

“Alps,” directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, is not especially beautiful to look at but it does offer some memorable images partnered with its themes. A pattern that stood out to me is that the customers’ faces are almost never seen clearly. They consistently look down. When they look straight ahead, the camera is angled to capture their profiles only. When not in profile, faces are shrouded in darkness or are far enough to be blurry. Maybe it is meant to preserve their anonymities, a suggestion that they feel ashamed for hiring someone to help them through their mourning.


Dogtooth (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

We all know families that tend to overprotect their children. There are parents who purposely instill irrational fear in their children so their kids will behave or act proper in front of strangers. Some do it in order to discipline, a seemingly small price to pay for a bit silence at home. “Kynodontas,” daringly written by Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos, took the repercussions of parents who equate parenting as taking control and multipled it exponentially. The result was comedic and horrific, curious but effective. To say that “Dogtooth” was strange would be an understatement and simplistic. The patriarch (Christos Stergioglou) and matriarch (Michele Valley) of the family had connections to the real world. The mother acted as if she had never been outside of their property. She took comfort by hiding a telephone in the bedroom. Sometimes she would talk on the phone and her children would overhear. However, they believed that their mother had been talking to herself. The father, on the other hand, was free to go to work and shop for food. But he warned his children that the only way one could be safe outside of their property was to be inside a car. The three children in question (Hristos Passalis, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni) were actually adults. Two were relatively content with their sheltered existence but one yearned to explore what was out there. She wanted objects not found in their home so when a stranger (Anna Kalaitzidou) came to visit, the daughter was willing to perform oral sex in exchange for such objects. The film immediately caught my attention because I hypothesized that the parents were some sort of really dedicated scientists involved in a behavior modification program. I surmised that the kids were genetically related to them but they saw the trio as nothing more than lab rats (they often wore white or some bland color). But as the picture unfolded, that wasn’t the case at all. I was mortified that they were actually serious about raising these kids because they thought it was the right thing to do. They purposely taught their children incorrect names for certain objects. I watched with a furrowed brow and the most perplexed expression. For instance, at the dinner table, one of the daughters asked her mother if she could pass the telephone. I thought, “Why would you need the telephone when you’re eating?” Out of nowhere, the mother grabbed the salt and handed it to her daughter. I was so puzzled with what was happening but I was undoubtedly entertained. What was even stranger was the fact that as the film went on, I was able to catch on with the incorrect labels and I actually understood what they meant to say. In a way, I became a part of the experiment which made me feel somewhat uneasy. Audiences who crave something unusual will be delighted by this oddity. Watson and Skinner would be proud.