By Rich Cline
From the Greek filmmakers behind the acclaimed anti-thriller Dogtooth, this fiendishly inventive drama is just as complex and telling. But it's also a more difficult film to enjoy, as it doesn't reveal its twisty, freaky secrets until rather late in the story. So before then, we have no choice but to just go along with it. Intriguingly, this leaves us perfectly prepared for a real emotional punch.
But it begins rather confusingly as four people meet up in a gymnastics practice room. The coach (Vekris) berates a gymnast (Labed), telling her that she's not ready for pop music. The other two work in a nearby hospital: a nurse (Papoulia) and a paramedic (Servetalis). And they call themselves "Alps", because it's a name that's deliberately misleading. It turns out that their job is to help people come to terms with the death of a loved one by roleplaying a character in the life of the bereaved. But reality and fantasy aren't that easy to keep separate.
Essentially, this extraordinary film is exploring the roles we all play in everyday life, both at work and at home. And how difficult it can be to tell the difference between who we want to be and who we really are. As the premise slowly comes into clearer focus, the filmmakers also challenge our preconceived ideas of identity and grief, and even gender issues get a work-out as most events are seen through the female characters' eyes.
What makes all of this interesting is the filmmakers' infectious curiosity: they don't seem to understand why these people behave like this any more than we do, but they carry on digging until puzzle pieces actually begin falling into place. And the result is funny, creepy, sad and moving. Along the way, there are constant running gags that feel a bit random but actually tell us a lot about ourselves. For example, the characters keep asking each other who their favourite actors are. and you might just realise that you're doing rather a lot more acting than you realise.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Thursday 27th October 2011
Distributed by: Kino Lorber
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos
Screenwriter: Giorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Starring: Hans Klikovich as Captain, Cornelia Ollinger as First Officer