Saturday, June 09, 2012

"Attenberg": a young woman comes of age in troubled Greece


Attenberg”, a film (and "dramedy") in Greek by Athina Rachel Tsangari, starts with a shot of an ivory-white plain facade covered with torn wallpaper.  Then we see best friends Marina (Ariane Labed) and Bella (Evangelina Randou) feigning some oral intimacy. But this is not really lesbianism; it’s more just a girl thing, a rite of passage.  Marina needs this more than Bella.  

Athina seems stuck in a fantasy world, watching Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries (an embedded clip about a gorilla family is interesting), but she is preoccupied with looking after her father, a former architect (Vangelis Mouriskis) who is declining rapidly from advanced prostate cancer.

Athina seems ambiguous about her identity, as evidences by comments she makes about the relevant parts of men and women (she regards her dad as emasculated).  But a visiting engineer (Yorgos Lanthimos) will wake her to the opportunities of “real life”, but perhaps without much commitment or preparation.

The film offers often spectacular scenery of the mountainous Greek coast, and gritty shots of a factory and apparent strip mine.  The movie does not take advantage of the opportunity to develop the issue of Greece’s economic problems and domestic protests.  For example, the government might not be able to cover the father’s care (or funeral issues, which play out at the end of the film).  And the film often shows Marina and Bella walking around connected in goose-steps, wearing matching plaids, as if they were twins. The film seems minimalist, given the issues it confronts. 

The official site is here, and it shows an image from the opening “intimacy” between Marina and Bella.

The YouTube trailer, somewhat whimsical, is provided by Haos Films (the Greek production company). 


The DVD will be available from Strand Releasing June 19.  I reviewed from a screener.  It is not rated, but in a few isolated scenes is very explicit. 

The film was featured at Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals in 2011.
Wikipedia attribution link for map of Greece. 

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