Dead Europe Movie Review
Even if the plot takes too long to come together, this film has a darkly foreboding tone that's thoroughly mesmerising, drawing us into its mysteries while touching on issues of race, religion and sexuality. It's a finely crafted film, although the filmmakers keep everything so enigmatic that we grow impatient to understand what's going on.
It centres on Australian photographer Isaac (Leslie), son of Greek immigrants who forbid their children from returning to the old country. Which of course makes them curious. Isaac's older brother Nico (Czokas) moved to Hungary years ago and never came back. And now that their father has died, Isaac decides to scatter his ashes in Greece and visit Nico. But when he gets to the ancestral village, he discovers that there's a curse on his branch of the family. It has something to do with a young Jewish boy during the war, and looking for answers in Paris and Budapest only deepens the mystery.
As Isaac travels around Europe he meets a wide variety of freaky characters who add to the film's unhinged mystery. These include his helpful Greek cousin Giulia (Skiadi) and her seductive friend Andreas (Samaras), a nutty woman (Fragos) who performs a psychic steam-reading, a Parisian couple (Balmer and Lebrun) who knew Isaac's father, an Arab woman (Bukstein) who's being trafficked, and Nico's cohort (Naor) in the drug-porn business. And there's also a homeless teen (Smit-McPhee) who seems to haunt Isaac wherever he goes.
The central idea here is that we can never fully escape the sins of our parents, so as Isaac gets deeper into the story everything around him starts to feel nightmarish. Director Krawitz creates an oppressive atmosphere that holds our interest even if we're never quite sure if anything supernatural is actually happening. Perhaps it's all symbolic of the payback for European colonists who violently subjugated natives around the planet. Or maybe it's a comment on the evils of Nazi collaboration. But at least the film's ambiguity gives us plenty to think about while it creeps us out.