holds the Sir Nicholas Laurantos’ Chair in Modern Greek Studies at the
University of Sydney. He has published extensively on Byzantine
historiography, Greek political life, Greek Cinema, European cinema, and
contemporary political philosophy. His recent publications includeA History of Greek Cinema (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2013) and Realism in Greek Cinema: From the Post-War Period to the Present
(I.B. Tauris, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph on Theo
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In an era of inane blockbusters and superfluous digital effects, Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film comes to restore confidence to the continuing significance of cinema in the contemporary world of spectacular capitalism. The Lobster (2015) seems like a film from another era, despite the fact that it comes out of the panics, phobias and dead ends of our time. It employs a cinematic language that challenges expectations and predispositions, while simultaneously providing a novel visualization of plot-structure. In reality, it transforms, or indeed re-imagines, the well-established codes of telling a story cinematically, into a new open-ended plot structure which for the time being frustrates and puzzles.
The Lobster is Yorgos Lanthimos’ fourth movie; through all his previous films, the anxiety of storytelling cinematically can be detected from the deconstructive Kinetta (2005), through the post-linguistic Dogtooth (2009) to the cryptic Alps (2012). In all his films Lanthimos visualizes a main plot which is impacted by countless hidden subplots, which never enter the field of its visuality. What is not depicted is probably what is more significant for the structure of his films; if contemporary films suffer of excessive visual rhetorics, what distinguishes his work is the minimalistic ellipsis in story line, acting style, dialogue, and settings. As his work is still evolving, it is obvious that the Lobster will have the same impact on cinematic debates as Lars von Trier’s The Idiots (1998) had in the recent past. ... More
Xenia is a deceptively simple film which needs a detailed analysis and exploration. Recently, it received a number of prestigious awards by the Greek Film Academy and many positive, albeit mixed, reviews in the international circuit of film festivals. Guy Lodge in Variety talked about the film as “brashly uneven and wildly overlong” in need of more “disciplined editing.”[i] Boyd van Hoeij pointed out that “though the story [i]s finally too predictable and a little too thin to captivate for the film’s entire two-hours-plus running time, the characters, their chemistry and their plight are compelling.” [ii] Fabien Lemercier was more positive in his assessment: “Very much at ease with tragicomedy and not one to shy away from any combination of genres – from fables to hyperrealism, or from focusing on a single human relationship to a vast portrait of society, via euphoric moments of musical comedy and amazing forays into dream worlds and fantasy – the filmmaker allows himself to take every possible liberty in Xenia”. Lemercier emphasises that “the film is above all a very successful portrait of brotherhood.” [iii] ... More
Recently, a spate of publications on the relation between cinema and religion reignited a conversation that seemed forgotten, after the grand Hollywood biblical epics of the 1950s and early 1960s. The conversation had started with Parker Tyler’s book Magic and Myth of the Movies (1947) and the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, and was later continued with Siegfried Kracauer’s Theory of Film bearing the indicative subtitle The Redemption of Physical Reality (1960); ultimately it found its more astute articulation in Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film (1972).
Although religion as the ultimate urgrund of signification, especially through the Neo-Thomist aesthetical views on speculum mentis, underpins the theories of a staunch realist like Andrè Bazin, no systematic discussion was ever undertaken about this complex issue. Yet even in the most atheistic period of the Soviet state, Sergei Eisenstein managed to infuse his Ivan the Terrible (1944), especially the second part (1958), with Christian iconography, as he abandoned the epic cinema of his early experiments and tried to develop his central character and his psychology over time. Religious semantics found always their way into the symbolic universe of many films, even if these films totally rejected the religious tradition that had formed them. ... More
Unquestionably, Little England, Pantelis Voulgaris’ latest film, is made for the big screen: it is monumental and expansive, a fresco structured around long shots with expressive depth of field and a unique visual perspective transporting spectators to the precarious boundaries between pathos and sentimentalism. The film is framed by the excess of emotions that permeate both story and representation: there is no distancing vacuum in its mise-en-scène: everything is full of a powerful rhetoric that suspends the resistances of the spectator through its rejection of both naturalism and illusionism at the same time.
The story itself is quiet complex and intriguing: set in the 1930s and 1940s, it is about the love affair of two sisters with the same man, within the provincial society on the island of Andros (affectionately called ‘Little England’, as its small society imitated to social organisation of the mighty English naval empire). Their mother (Aneza Papadopoulou), the viper, as she is called, decides, for reasons of financial security, to marry the second daughter Moscha (Sophia Kokkali) with the man that the first is in love with (Andreas Konstantinou) and the first Orsa (Penelope Tsilika) with a powerful and wealthy shipowner (Maximos Moumouris). After her decision, the house, which was built by herself and her husband who is travelling for years in distant countries, becomes the haunted place of a bizarre and tense coexistence. The secret love remains secret until Moscha’s husband is killed during the Second World War in the most explosive moment of the film. Orsa’s mental state disintegrates, while later her letters to her first love are discovered and explain to her sister and her own family how it happened. ... More