22 March 2014

DVD Review - Metéora (2012)

Drama,Romance, World Cinema
Soda Pictures
Rating: 15
Spiros Stathoulopoulos
Theo Alexander, Tamila Koulieva-Karantinaki, Giorgos Karakantas
Buy: Meteora [DVD] [2012]

It may come as no surprise that Spiros Stathoulopoulos has been compared to ‘Greek School’ filmmakers Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth and Alps) and Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg), with every Greek director likely to undergo the same treatment for the foreseeable future. What is surprising though is the way his latest film Metéora has not just been compared with but planted firmly within the movement, with David Jenkins (Little White Lies) going as far as stating that Stathoulopoulos’ film is a marker for the moment the ‘Greek School’ “grew up.” This assertion that his film is part of the movement, for me, is a rather odd one, with the film not containing the same dark humour and aesthetic conventions as those films, or sharing any of the collaborators associated with the group.

If we are to compare the style of Stathoulopoulos’ Metéora to anything, it would be fair to say that it bears a closer resemblance to the slow-paced, documentary-style fiction of Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte than anything by Lanthimos or Tsangari. The film chooses to tell its story of the love affair between a monk and a nun with the minimum of fuss, using plenty of long static shots of Orthodox buildings perched atop a pair of mountains, or similar shots of the plains and village that nestle below it, with the sumptuous imagery only occasionally punctuated with the distracting insertion of what can only be described as surreal Byzantine-esque animations, seemingly placed there to convey the religious connotations of the protagonists’ actions.

Stathoulopoulos builds his film around a series of dichotomies which can be deciphered from his following statement, “Up above is life in the community; below is the individual. Central to the film is the place in-between, the ‘area of suspension’ – an area of conflict where the human soul is confronted with the decision of which direction to go.” He is talking of the sacred and the profane; ascetic and despair; spiritual devotion and human desire; or, as it is put in the quote, the community and the individual. He explores these dichotomies through the behaviour of his characters and this is where a connection can be found between his film and those of Lanthimos and Tsangari, for what he shares with those directors is an anthropological approach to his subject.


Shane James

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