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Attenberg
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Reviews & Ratings for
Attenberg More at IMDbPro »

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19 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

An intriguing, but ultimately unsatisfying study of the human condition

6/10
Author: jonrosling from United Kingdom
5 September 2011

*** 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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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Very interesting piece of work

Author: hanagomolakova from Czech Republic
11 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this film at a KVIFF screening and just had to sit down and write this bit about it. I think I've seen quite a bit of various films, but this was a real "cinema extraordinaire"… Like Dogtooth, which Tsangari co-produced, Attenberg is a clear criticism of contemporary Greece and the decay of values on a sample so precious to the Greek culture – a family.

Inspired by the BBC series studying the behavior of animals by David Attenborough, the film tries to do something similar, only the with people. Mispronunciation of the biologist's name provides the title to the film.

The plot is quite simple and easy to get. Marina, a 23 year old is only just starting to experiment with her sexuality at the background of a deserted factory, a remnant of industrial Greece of the last century. Her father, who's dying of cancer, only speaks of the procedure of having his body cremated elsewhere, as this is apparently a taboo in Greece. Marina's experimenting her first sexual experience with her best friend Bella, who has apparently had her share already. Enter "Engineer", a nameless character, who serves Marina almost like a human figurine for her first sexual experience.

Let the story begin. Hold on, but there's no story here. Tsangari is not interested in her characters and their journey of how they got being what they are or where they're going. Rather, she studies their character and she does so mercilessly.

She doesn't stop before anything including stripping her characters (and their protagonists) naked, literary. Its not just their bodies we see naked, but also all their secret thoughts and feelings, lets them express everything on the screen for the voyeur-predator sitting in the audience, serving them blood-dripping raw.

To even deepen the animal-like impression the audience gets when seeing the four lead characters, Tsangari lets them act like real animals, and uses these sequences as intermission, sort of, in her film, giving it an even more bizarre impression.

The colors are very simple as well, the general greyness interrupted only by images of the monstrous factory nearby. Camera bets everything on stills having the pattern interrupted only by a moment when Marina and Bella play tennis and tensions between them escalate.

Overall, a very interesting film more likely to shock and make your head spin rather than bore you.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Odd piece of melancholia

3/10
Author: eros_man_gr
1 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film has two great flaws: lack of a central plot and dispassionate characters (not performances). The protagonist of Marina is not only asexual, she is completely unemotional, even around her father and her supposed best (and only) friend. There is neither joy nor tragedy, only complete indifference to everything that happens. Occasionally you get an interesting remark about how Greece skipped modernity, but that is not really enough to make it interesting or thoughtful. Even during her sex scene, Marina keeps talking trivia non-stop during the first half, then is quiet as a mouse during the second half. I have never met or even seen people this deprived of emotion, so I cannot relate in any meaningful way to it.

In short, this is the kind of film that most people will get bored with quickly, then get told by somebody else why they are supposed to like it. Symbolism really only works when it is sufficiently obvious to all. In my opinion, this should never have been nominated for any awards, much less won them. If you know somebody that stares blankly with no emotion when he/she is with friends, having sex, and when their father dies, then maybe you can relate to this film more than I did. If you don't, well, there are much better Greek films out there.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Successful Tableau of Post Modern Greece

8/10
Author: kyanberu from United States
22 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I liked this film, but only after making the following assumptions about what director Maria Tsangari was trying to do: (I) Depict current post-Christian Greece as an emotionally dead society that had failed to develop properly as had the rest of Europe (hence the need for cremation in Germany, music from France). (II) Make Marina the symbol for Modern Greece. She is devoid of human feeling, and yet the only character who really matters. Her architect father is dying. Her engineer lover is an automaton. And I think Bella does not really exist, but is Marina's alter ego--the real human Marina would like to be (this would explain their synchronized dancing and Marina's request that Bella sleep with her father). (III) Show humans as little different from the gorillas seen on Sir David Attenborough's BBC show. The naked and semi-naked women parading around the changing room could have been a scene from an Attenborough nature documentary. When Marina and her lover were bouncing on the bed like gorillas they were making a conscious attempt to go back to their roots; to escape the emotional sterility of modern Greece.

It is a movie of beautiful, haunting tableaux. The closing scene of trucks rolling though the industrial landscape after the ashes of its architect were scattered in the nearby sea shows that life on earth goes on, regardless.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

How does one come of age in a bleak world?

5/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
30 January 2014

Athina Rachel Tsangari's "Attenberg" doesn't present the most positive image of Greece. The focus is a pair of friends in a mining town. The main girl is watching her father die, and her only real pleasure is watching David Attenborough's wildlife documentaries, in addition to the sex education given to her by her friend.

The movie itself was pretty slow and seemed to have little other purpose except to show these girls in a grim existence. But at the same time it gives one a sense of life in the Hellenic Republic. Once the land that gave the world philosophy, it's now the Third World of Europe. The historic sites are surrounded by crumbling sidewalks and people missing teeth. It's no accident that Greece has been probably the single country most affected by Europe's economic mess. As the main girl's father puts it: "We went from sheep to bulldozers."

Anyway, it's not any kind of great movie, but it does give one an idea of the status quo in Greece.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Show off!

4/10
Author: Katia_H from Greece
25 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I first saw the film I was confused and I left the theater thinking about it. That's something I always enjoy in a film and I gave it 7/10 at the time. But thinking about it and seeing it again I felt a lot that it was a superficial film masked with a meaningful exterior. The themes in this film are something people can identify with. Loosing a parent, finding your sexuality, jealousy among friends and friendship in general. But further than that it had nothing to say. No point of view, no real reason for it's existence. Just a presentation of facts. It would be better as a documentary. So pretentious and fake. From the directing to the acting and the script it was shallow and meaningless. I think the director simply wanted to show off.

Don't waste your time. There are really good independent films out there. This isn't one of them.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Prolonged agony

3/10
Author: plenum from Auckland, New Zealand
23 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If there is any one character that this movie really pushes one to identify with, it must be Spyros. The dying man is there for the ride, and so are we, the ones unfortunate enough to have sat throughout this static disjointed mess. Tsangari manages to pull a sick joke on viewers by pretending that this movie is about "sex, death and life in between". This movie is a preposterously pretentious collage of thoroughly insipid scenes, fit for a post-lobotomy day-long blank staring session. I found the movie utterly unenjoyable, and its parallel to real-life documentaries revolting and absurd, seeing as how Attenborough manages to be a lot closer to his animals than this confounded director ever was to her actors. Tsangari is so adept at chasing the last traces of sincere expression out of the actors' performances that I feel like there was more humanity and life in the few shots of gorillas than there was from the entire cast of this excruciatingly dry film. The only memorable thing about this movie is how many yawns one could squeeze into 90 minutes. If you want a good (and recent) piece of Greek cinema, try Kynodontas (incidentally, Tsangari was an associate producer of that film, but hew role was probably small enough not to ruin what is a masterpiece of modern Greek cinema, unlike this unpalatable bunk).

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8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Unconventional

6/10
Author: doppelganger_muse from Greece
5 October 2011

Difficult. That's what cult stands for in this situation. Greece's highest creations come from a group of people where they recycle and create via a type of rotation. The producer of Dogtooth become a director, the director an actor and so on. Not bad at all. Follows the artistic aspect of Dogtooth, showing a story on adulthood and dealing with loss and what you are. An unconventional human being (with a touch of Asperger's syndrome), a loving and caring father, a slutty best friend and a partner almost like an alter ego, resembles to her father, and mirrors herself. Honest, familiar yet artsy, method-ish and pretentious from time to time. But still opens up to the viewers, where the twisted is welcome, no one judges and offers himself to the public effortlessly, honestly almost unconditionally. A new era, post modern, unlocks the contemporary social establishment.

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27 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Very interesting

7/10
Author: Giedrius G (belekas3515@gmail.com) from Lithuania
12 April 2011

Born and raised in an abandoned mill town, uniformly built around a single high-rise apartment building , Marina has fallen in love with a failed architectural experiment and forgotten all about the people who were supposed to live in it.

Built sometime in the sixties, Attenberg was never meant to harbour human warmth in the first place. Its sole purpose was to procure obedient workers for the nearby aluminum factory, offering a colorless life to go with the regulation outfit. Hardly the stuff dreams are made of. The only romance that ever blossoms amidst the white-washed walls of this ghost town is of the fleeting variety, here now and gone tomorrow, as Marina's promiscuous friend Bella would readily attest to.

The only long-standing engagement is the one between Marina's father – one of the project's leading architects – and the city. Eternally bound to his concrete mistress, he now follow s her down ward spiral , as his cancerous innards are decaying in synch with the building's ancient plumbing. No wonder his daughter never learned how to love. And the only man who could ever teach her – a handsome stranger in town for business – might have entered her life a little too late. Will Marina follow her father down the path of destruction, or will she break free of the asphalt and concrete jungle that is her home? Conjuring magic from graceless slabs of stone, Athina Rachel Tsangari turns the remains of this industrial community into her own private Stonehenge – a cross between ancient burial ground s and an enchanted monument. Or perhaps the town is just the breeding ground for an endangered species, like the ones Marina loves to watch on the wildlife channel. The only difference is these ones are plagued by post-industrial loneliness. And it appears to be fatal.

Some kinda artful, theatrically but then again verisimilar movie. A Lot Nudity. The main character got this Asexuality orientations (abstention from sexual activity) + shes got this strange shoulder condition. Movie not for everyone .

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10 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

What?!

Author: Andy Sims (ajs709) from United Kingdom
5 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is complete and utter garbage. I found the underlying theme - that the character called Marina leads an isolated life and adopts the behavioural traits she observes on nature documentaries - tentative and completely implausible, particularly as we see on numerous occasions that she is not at all isolated. I was a huge fan of the equally quirky Dogtooth and comparisons are natural enough, but at least that film had an accessible and clear point, swimming as it was with lashings of the ludicrous and outre. But quite what the film-makers were trying to say here was completely lost to me; some interesting points are raised - the whole notion of death, the industrial history of Greece, sexual exploration and taboos - but none are properly developed. It just seems they were token efforts to give this exercise in absurdity some kind of meaning. They fail badly. Maybe i miss the point and the point is: there is no point - in which case why bother? Its not particularly entertaining, with the odd moments of black humour being far too sparse to make it worthwhile. The little dances between Marina and the other female lead were just too ridiculous to assert anything and didn't make me laugh, cry or think or feel anything. Even when the inevitable death of the father comes, little emotion is evoked, essentially because neither he or his daughter is particularly likable perhaps due to the over-the-top eccentricity they exhibit. I was quite glad when it was all over...neither as profound or challenging as i suspect was intended.

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