Film Series – Biffes (Bangalore International Film Festival)

This here is a series of brief overviews of films that are to be screened in the Bangalore film festival 2011. Almost all details are from Wikipedia/IMDB

First is Attenberg, A Greek movie

Attenberg is a Greek drama film directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival[1] and Ariane Labed won the Coppa Volpi for the Best Actress.[2][3] It was filmed in the Aspra Spitia village of Boeotia.[4] The film has been selected as the Greek entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards.[5][6]

One user review from IMDB


Author: jonrosling from United Kingdom

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I’d heard nothing about ATTENBERG until I picked up a review booklet in the local indie cinema in my town and was intrigued by the premise. It’s difficult to explain the story as such because this isn’t really a story piece, but more of a study in character and relationships, and the human condition.

As a character study the film-makers perhaps deliberately draw parallels with nature documentaries which observe animal behaviour without really making any emotional connection between man and beast. The film draws attention to this – as the main character Marina, played here by Ariana Labed, watches Sir David Attenborough on TV describing his experience of coming face to face with a gorilla. He sees it as a connection with nature like no other he has experienced.

Marina herself realises that there is no emotional content in her life, no connection with those around her. Her candid questioning of her father’s sexuality and the off-hand conversation about the process of cremation after his death lays bare the emotional desert that she exists in. Her cold relationship with best friend Bella, and Bella’s clumsy attempts to set alight the fires of sexual yearning in Marina further show that she (Marina) is spiritually, emotionally empty.

Even her attempts – ultimately successful – to lose her virginity to the nameless engineer she drives to and from work each day in her job as a taxi driver are emotionless, cold, stark. She describes each stage of their tenderness, each aspect of love-making stripping it of any feeling, warmth, humanity.

Marina is played brilliantly by Ariana Labed, who hides behind a stillness in both her face and eyes, barely revealing anything except in the strange dances with Bella. Evangelia Randou succeeds in bringing darkness to Bella. She is unhindered by thoughts of feeling and emotion, tenderness and love and in every respect she plays the darker, animalistic side to Marina. It was easy to think for the first act that Bella was not a real character but a shadow side to Marina, satisfying the hidden fantasises Marina has, about sex and even, in a Freudian twist, about her own father.

Marina almost gets there but the death of her father, the functional process of packing him off to Germany to be cremated (cremation is legal in Greece and has been since 2006, but is still frowned upon by the Orthodox Christian church there) pulls her back into a world that is hard and cold and stark. She stands and watches his coffin packaged, x-rayed for the flight, marked with “THIS WAY UP” stickers like some Amazon or eBay parcel.

There is a moment of feeling as she chases briefly after the pick up that takes him to the plane but in the end the film pulls back from allowing the character the emotional epiphany it has been building to. She scatters his ashes into the sea, driven there by Bella, clothed in a functional visibility jacket and struggling to prise off the lid from the urn. There seems to be no feeling, except maybe disappointment that there is no deeper feeling as the waves wash him away. Marina has not opened the door to love, feeling, loss, emotion.

And it’s this that I struggled with in the film. What it said to me was that humans can be really no different from animals, going through the day by day business of survival. It shows people in all their functional purpose – working, eating, dying. It doesn’t hold back from showing it’s characters naked, like the apes in the jungle.

There is a notion in this that we have a reservoir of compassion and love, and a whole glut of deeper emotions to give but that it remains untapped; and that we are perhaps trapped by our circumstance and surroundings and past and thus prevented from expressing our true selves.

Our characters live in a rundown industrial town, and the story itself was written against the backdrop of riots in Greece at austerity measures and economic crisis. The film-makers and writers are asking: Is this all we are? Industry? Economy? Money? Simple black and white things? Or is there something else.

But they never answer the question for Marina and her plight is left unresolved, unsatisfied.

The cinematography in the film – by Thimios Bakatakis – is beautiful, still. It is a series of tableau into which movement sometimes intrudes, the emotions stirring the mind.

But ultimately it is the failure to resolve Marina’s dilemma that leaves the film missing that final piece of the jigsaw that would have made it an art-house classic.”

 

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