Clinical emotional awakening both intrigues and mystifies
Unfolding in a strangely deserted seaside Greek industrial town, Attenberg charts the gradual emotional awakening of a withdrawn young woman Marina (impressive newcomer Ariane Labed), whose dying architect father Spyros (Vangelis Mourikis) encourages her to embrace life. Although she experiments by tongue-kissing her best friend Bella (Evangelia Randou), Marina is repelled by the idea of sexual intercourse, and prefers to take refuge in the nature documentaries of Sir David Attenborough – hence the film’s intentionally mispronounced title – and the songs of electro punk pioneers Suicide and French chanteuse Francoise Hardy.
It’s hard to avoid drawing connections to Dogtooth, given that writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari produced the earlier film, and its director Giorgos Lanthimos appears here as a passing engineer, who sleeps with Marina. Certainly Tsangari has heeded Jean-Luc Godard’s advice to put ‘everything into a film’, playfully incorporating animal imitations, word games and bizarrely synchronised walks performed by the female leads, alongside laments for the failure of modernity and detailed cremation arrangements. Shot in long, uninterrupted takes, this clinical examination of sex and death intrigues and mystifies in equal measures.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 2-Thu 8 Sep. GFT, Glasgow from Mon 26-Thu 29 Sep.