Starring Aggeliki Papoulia, Ariane Lebed, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris and Stavros Psyllakis
Written by Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos
Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos
Director Giorgos Lanthimos smashed onto the scene in 2009 with the Venice Film Festival award winning Dogtooth. Lanthimos returns with another surrealist dark comedy with Alps, which starts its engagement at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox this Friday June 22nd.
Alps is the story of four people who start a business venture where they take on the mannerisms and dialogue of the recently deceased in order to help people cope with loss of their loved ones. Consisting of a gymnast, her coach, a paramedic, and a nurse, the four dub themselves Alps because in their leader Mount Blanc’s opinion the Alps can never be mistaken for any other mountain range, but they are big enough to fill the space of any other mountain range. The four have a set of rules that they must adhere to in order to maintain trust within the murky situations that occur in the course of running the business. It’s with these parameters intact that we see the Nurse (Papoulia) become entwined with the family of a coma patient who decide to use her services outside of the group dynamic. She also has an elderly father at home to take care of, flipping roles between daughter and wife, that plays with her sanity as she is almost constantly in one character or another. We follow her descent down as the other Alps find out what is going on and the line between character and real life blur even further.
Having not seen Dogtooth I was not very familiar with Lanthimos’ work, of course I had heard the buzz and had an idea what that film was about, as it has racked up the accolades, however I had no idea of the tone or pacing I would be facing in Alps. Unfortunately, the pacing is very slow and deliberate and the comedy is very dry. Alps is essentially a character piece without any character development as even Papoulia’s character barely develops beyond one-dimensional. Papoulia’s performance is quite believable though, despite the lack of development. Her talent on display here is the real reason you stay with the film and don’t quit early. The rest of the group has its moments to shine and in most sequences they deliver. The painfully methodical pacing means you’ll need to be prepared for this film when entering; this is not the film you watch when tired, as it will challenge you to stay with it throughout the film.
Undoubtedly there will be many who support this film as genius minimalist filmmaking, and I’m sure they will have valid reasons behind their arguments, but the pacing and lack of character development do not work enough for me. I will give Alps the mildest of recommends because of the performances on the screen, but know that you will have to work to keep up, or should I say down, with the pacing of it all.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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