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With the singularly compelling premise of a mysterious group offering
to take over the roles of recently deceased people to provide relief
for their loved ones, it came as quite the shock to me that Greek
writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos's follow-up to his 2009
Oscar-nominated "Dogtooth" (one of my all-time favorites) ultimately
failed at living up to its concept.
Throughout the entirety of "Alps", I felt I was gazing in awe at a beautiful seed sadly incapable of germination. The film barely got anywhere while maintaining an incredibly slow pace and irritating visual style consisting of incessantly restrained deep-focus cinematography. There was so much potential wasted on scenes far too peculiar and insignificant to add any depth to the story or further develop the characters. Seldom did anything rightfully earn its place in the film; the multiple sex scenes seemed to be there with the sole purpose of being extremely awkward and obscene, while all the attempts at absurd humor felt slightly forced and weren't as effective as they should have been due to the narrative's intermittent solemnity.
This brings me to the film's greatest problem, which was that on top of struggling to find its own voice and tone in its ridiculously irrational approach it never really figured out what message it wanted to convey to its audience. Evidently Lanthimos was trying to say something about human nature and the craziness of consumer society, but he didn't succeed in delivering his thoughts coherently this time around. I hate comparing, but I must say I found the profound social critique that seeped through the bizarre surface of "Dogtooth" to be far superior in elaboration.
The end result of "Alps" was a confused, detached (albeit well-acted, especially by Aggeliki Papoulia) jumble beyond anyone's realm of comprehension, so overwhelmingly filled with unjustified senselessness that the most I could do was simply sit and stare at the screen, patiently awaiting some real substance, only to be disappointed by sheer staleness.
I suppose I somewhat admired "Alps" for all that it could've been following its eccentric uniqueness, but I can't see how anyone in their right mind could have truly enjoyed it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The title Alps refers to a fairly mysterious secret society of the same
name in Yorgos Lanthimos' follow up to the hugely successful Dogtooth.
I entered the film not knowing much about it, and I think that's the
best way for the movie to unfold for you, as a mystery. I think mystery
in general is Lanthimos' best gift here, Alps is a movie that really
lets you take your own view, leaves pieces of the jigsaw out and sparks
all sorts of different thoughts. I think I also felt that there's a
seedling of hope and compassion in the movie amongst an existential
debris of pragmatic, valueless and selfish individuals, which to my
mind makes it a lighter experience than Dogtooth (although most critics
have said otherwise). I think it's sad that, what I think are quite
serious films, are mainly sold by relating to their shock or comedy
value. The sequel-itis contagion requires a sequel to be darker, so to
some extent people have spun this film as Dogtooth 2 - RABID! There's
an aesthetic inversion in the sense that Lanthimos has Dogtooth
containing characters trying to escape from an artificial environment,
and in Alps characters are trying to create them. They're both about
"existential malaise", but other than that, perhaps should be treated
"Winter swimmers never feel the cold." is a phrase that comes up in the movie. I think that a lot of folk here have got inured to soulless living. The people who the society focus on live out the past, and only value others in terms of what they can give to them, or how they make them feel, they're devoid of altruism. As in Dogtooth there's scenes of characters apeing iconic dream factory roles, the folks here are small compared to the objects of their obsession. People are trying so hard to be better than others, that they end up alone.
Difficult to talk exactly about the movie without spoilers, but I think my take was that the main message is that redemption comes via self-sacrifice, that people should grow up and be adults (western societies have pushed back the assuming of adulthood later and later). As in Dogtooth, there's a specifically Grecian comment about the old feeding off the young (though perhaps this will resonate elsewhere).
The character that I want to hug is Monte Rosa (Aggeliki Papoulia), I think she takes a beautiful journey, the journey to altruism.
Greek screenwriter, producer and director Yorgos Lanthimos' fourth
feature film which he co-wrote with screenwriter Efthimis Filippou and
co-produced, premiered In competition at the 68th Venice Film Festival
in 2011, was screened in the Visions section at the 36th Toronto
International Film Festival in 2011, was shot on location in Greece and
is a Greek production which was produced by producer Athina Rachel
Tsangari. It tells the story about a ballet coach, his female student,
an ambulance driver and a nurse named Anna who runs a private business
which is led by one of the males.
Distinctly and precisely directed by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, this rhythmic fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from one of the central female character's point of view, draws a quiet and diverse portrayal of four members of a group consisting of two men and two women who has named themselves "Alps" and who offers people consolation in their grief by substituting for their loved ones who has passed away. While notable for it's naturalistic and mostly interior milieu depictions, sterling production design by production designer Anna Georiadou, cinematography by cinematographer Christos Voudouris, distinct use of light, dialog within dialog and acting within acting, this character-driven story depicts an acute study of character and contains a timely and efficient score.
This cinematic, situational and theatrically remarkable mystery drama which is set in Greece and where pretending to be a non-existing person and putting a shield on one's innate human emotions takes a toll on the only person in the group who thinks outside the box, is impelled and reinforced by it's cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, rare characters, versatile perspectives, poignant and naturally occurring humor and ingenious acting performances by actresses Ariane Labed, Aggeliki Papoulia and actors Ares Servitales and Johnny Veksris. A sociological, minimalistic, cinematographic and invigorating character piece which underlines the hardships of being an actor or actress, the distinction between fiction and reality and which gained, among other awards, the Golden Osella for Best Screenplay Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou at the 68th Venice Film Festival in 2011.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What happens when people insist on controlling one another? When they see the other only in terms of roles and obligations, not as individuals? When the primary interaction between those with power in relationships and those without is that the powerful take what they want, insist on conventional behavior from others and deny the weaker ones their desires and opportunities. When those denied must submit or die? What are the effects of even small acts of kindness? What is the effect of really seeing the other. Satisfying individual needs? This movie aims directly at the intellect and the gut, using a strikingly unusual metaphor as storyline. If you read the other reviews, you'll see it leaves many disappointed, irritated and confused. If you love patterns and puzzles you may enjoy this. Eventually. During the movie I was repeatedly briefly enraged, mostly just puzzled. Immediately after watching it, I wondered why the director thought he was entitled to waste 90 minutes of his viewer's lives with such coldness, sterility and artifice. By the time I woke up the next morning, the pieces began to fall into place. The actions and interactions of the gymnast and trainer during the first and last scenes, and the reason that the two scenes differ, encapsulate everything. After a lot of thought and piecing together, I see the movie as a brilliant piece of art. Unpleasantly, disturbingly, heart-rendingly brilliant.
Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos's second feature film "Alps" is just
as thought provoking and bizarre as his Academy Award nominated debut
"Dogtooth". He paints a very surreal picture that can be hard to
understand, but somehow is still very engaging.
"Alps" is the name of a clandestine group of four people who offer a service to impersonate the recently deceased in order to help their clients through the grieving process. This group is comprised of a nurse, a rhythmic gymnast and her coach, and another man who is their leader. They are called the "Alps" because it is ambiguous and doesn't say what they do, as well as being irreplaceable. They meet in a gymnasium and don't go by their real names but are referred to by mountain peaks associated with the Alps. The leader is Mount Blanc, the Nurse and the stories main character is called Mount Rose.
The film is mainly focused on Mount Rose, played by Aggrelikki Papoulia who also starred in "Dogtooth" as the Eldest daughter. It is about the lost of identity and losing your connections to reality. Mount Rose is a nurse who lives with her elderly father, but also seems to be a playing the part of his late wife. She has several Alps clients and it is hard to find who the "real" Mount Rose is. The Gymnast and coach are another thing altogether, she is always in training and never seems to be ready. Mount Blanc is sort of a mystery. He is the quiet and stoic leader of the group who during a game of who would you most like to impersonate chooses Bruce Lee.
When Mount Rose breaks one of the rules of being an Alp she is cast out, this is where she loses her proverbial sh** and has a complete mental breakdown. Like trying to describe the meaning of a Salvador Dali painting, both "Alps" and "Dogtooth" just need to be experienced and usually more than once. Both movies are now available on Netflix watch Instantly.
If it is one thing I really love, it is being in a state of PARANOIA.
In Yorgos Lanthimos's Alps, we follow a group of individuals, mainly
gymnastic instructors, who basically began a business where they act as
someones recently-diseased loved-one in order for the family (thinking
of parents) cope with the grieving process. Sounds like a wacky story.
Well, it is :).
As I like to mention before all my reviews, I have seen the previous work of Lanthimos. Mainly the very successful Greek film, Dogtooth, which is a dysfunctional family with the kids being taught the wrong things in order to be safe from the outside world. That one I loved.
BUT I ALSO LOVED THIS ONE! The small things that they do with the camera-work blows my mind. There are a lot of times where our main character, or so I think, simply named Nurse (played by Angeliki Papoulia who was in Dogtooth) speaks with another individual where we cannot see their face. It is either cut-out, blurred, or even covered by shadows. I love this. I have seen Kar-Wai Wong do it in a couple of his films. It adds a little mystery and confusion to the story. Do these people not matter? Will they matter? What have you!
The tone of the film is pretty much the same throughout it all. Some little indents here and there, but in my opinion, it is worth the watch, regardless how slow you think it is.
I just find it very fun to watch these type of people (broken) living there lives on a day to day basis. Not the major things they do throughout there day that effects them, but the small things that we rarely take notice of. Like small chit-chat with someone else, etc.
I must say, that as much as they seem they are pushing it away, I find this film very touching. The way they have to impersonate a family member who is dead makes up for the abnormal conversations. You can tell that when they are going through this process that they are acting; very badly, too. But that is how it would go. That is not something you can enjoy, nor hate. Nor will you think it's a good idea or bad. It just feels as though it is something to do.
A KVIFF screening, from the young and talented Greek director Giorgos
Lanthimos, a follow-up of DOGTOOTH (2009), which was a dark horse
nominee of Oscar's BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR and I haven't
watched yet. But Giorgos' eerie approach of scrutinizing modern-day's
communicative malaise has its overt justification in ALPS.
Absurd, genuinely designed, full of fits of laughters about the mimicking set pieces, the film presents itself in a more comprehensive elaboration than I expected, although initially, it takes some time to figure out the real occupation and motivation behind the self-dubbed "Alps"group (maybe Everest could be a more befitting name since its the highest mountain on the earth and its irreplaceability should be more cogent than Alps as long as height is concerned).
But the wacky "impersonating the deceased"groundwork is not potent enough to sustain the film into a genius employment, since the demanding of this type of service and its viability to perform its presumed obligation (to console the next-of-kins' grief) is a moot question here, and eventually a win-win condition has to yield to the conceptual willfulness (in the film it is the identity misconception, a spontaneously unsurprising aftermath). But performance-wise, leading actress Aggeliki Papoulia is a natural treasure, rendering the eccentric antics much more personal dedication (which also includes an equivocal default of the relationship between her and her father, another Alps' case or not?), I put her among my top 10 list of BEST LEADING ACTRESS line-up of 2011.
ALPS is a patchwork piece, nonetheless, Giorgos' one-of-a-kind singularity alone could be singled out as one of the most intriguing and cutting-edge film artist to bring some mondo gratification to cinema nerds.
Two years after his international hit «Kynodontas», Yorgos Lanthimos released «Alpeis», which is as good as the previous, winning the Best Screenplay award at the Venezia film festival, as well as other distinctions in Sydney and Sofia. However the film was unjustly appreciated: as people say, "comparisons are unfair" and the reception of «Alpeis» proves it, as audiences and film critics were expecting another portrait of canine confinement. This time the filmmaker opted for theatricality, games of appearance and perception, he opted for a tale that fluctuates between drama and comedy, inclined to the absurdist aspects in the representation of reality. «Alpeis» is more realistic than its predecessor, but not because of this it lacks images expressing "artistic flights". On the other hand, Lanthimos touches death, a subject that frequently frightens people, when it is one of the few things we humans can have for sure. The story though does not present descriptions of demises, but a group called "Alpeis" that offers a peculiar service to mourners: a temporary substitute for the deceased, with a fixed fee, while the grievers adapt to the loss of their loved ones. Their varied clientèle includes the parents of a young tennis player, a blind and cuckolded old lady, a local man that communicates in English, a naval officer At the same time the same personnel conforms a small group of gymnasts and trainers that gather in a sports hall. However the plot is built around a young nurse (played by splendid Angeliki Papoulia, who was the older sister in «Kynodontas»), her tribulations and twisting. The social and economic crisis of the country does not have a central place in Yorgos Lanthimos' cinema, as in the movies of other of his compatriots, but for the stories he tells Lanthimos vividly suggests that something is rotten in the state of Greece.
Does it matter what ties a group committed to a common goal together?
Does it matter if their common passion is nefarious or altruistic? Do
the members need strict unbreakable rules to cohere? Is the survival of
the group more important than the survival of any member? Can a goal of
the group be accomplished by an individual without the support of the
Lanthimos has my unreserved admiration. I assume he is looking at group dynamics perverted. I can't quite relate to this movie as recognizably human.
I had visceral understanding of Dogtooth. This is what we do as parents.
I had visceral understanding of The Lobster. This is what society demands of us.
No such connection to Alps.
Alps was so close to becoming another brilliant Yorgos Lanthimos film
but, unfortunately, it fell flat as nondescript, self-absorbed attempt
at creating significance out of absurdity.
I know for fact that Lanthimos is brilliant and he is one of my favorite filmmakers, but I can't pretend to enjoy this one. I never complained about Lanthimos' abnormal-made-normal stories and techniques and I never will (I love them actually); this movie, however, lacked the glue that hold these elements together and came out as an uttered great line.
Alps is a good idea ruined by execution. Sorry, Lanthimos.
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