DVD Review – Alps (2011)

Alps, 2011.

Directed by Giogos Lanthimos.
Starring Stavros Psyllakis, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed and Aggeliki Papoulia.

SYNOPSIS:

A group of people who call themselves Alps impersonate the recently deceased so they can provide comfort to the mourners.

After his breakout film Dogtooth, director Yorgos Lanthimos widens the weird scope from a single family to an entire town in this Greek tale of life imitating life.

A nurse, a paramedic, a rhythmic gymnast and her controlling coach meet regularly in a sparse gymnasium to divide up their work. Mont Blanc (Aris Servetalis), their self appointed leader, has nicknamed them Alps – a set of mountains that can’t be replaced, but could happily substitute for any other cliff face. And that’s exactly what they do; standing in for the recently deceased, they wear the clothing and re-enact familiar lines of dialogue to help mourning friends and family work through their grief.

Rarely looking like their counterparts and delivering lines with such stoic, deadpan expressions, you begin to wonder how their presence could possibly help. Are people really just the sum of a few t-shirts and a couple of choice words, easily replaced by a warm body? According to Lanthimos, they are. None of the families decline the absurd offer and no one comments on the strangeness of the situation, as long as the Alps stay in character, people genuinely benefit from the home theatrics.

Despite Mont Blanc enjoying a sadistic control over the group, it’s Monte Rosa (Aggeliki Papoulia) who steers our attention. Breezing through so many characters, at first it’s unclear whether scenes of her home life are real or just another role she’s inhabiting. As she continues to flit between characters, the emotional toil of her job overwhelms her; she rebels against the rules set out by Mont Blanc and starts to lose sight of what is real and what is a performance. As a result her relationship with her father, her clients and even the other Alps quickly crumbles.

Sterile shots and decapitated framing deliberately keep the audience distant and uneasy. Each scene is packed with pregnant pauses and stilted moments that are more entrancing than entertaining as the camera deprives you of facial expressions and reaction shots. Even when in a room of people Monte Rosa remains isolated, and the majority of scenes are only loosely connected to the last. The effect is one of clinical detachment.

Unexpected laughs and streaks of violence make for an absorbing story, but there’s a cold, disjointed slowness that won’t arouse everyone’s interest. Enigmatic and sometimes eerie, Alps is certainly another unique feature to arrive on the “Greek Weird Wave”.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Sushan Mansley