Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth follow-up retains that film's weird sensibility but lacks its wider focus
Having launched a new wave of bizarro Greek cinema (see also Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg) with his Oscar-nominated queasy black comedy Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos returns with a follow up that’s just as absurdly idiosyncratic. The Alps of the title are a group of emotional oddballs – an A&E nurse, a paramedic, a coach and a gymnast – who assume the names of different mountains from the titular range and who offer themselves to the families of the recently deceased as doubles for the sadly departed. The idea is to help the bereaved relatives come to terms with their loss, although the most prominent ‘Alper’ (played by Aggeliki Papoulia, who was also in Dogtooth) appears to have very personal reasons for undertaking this macabre public service.
As with Lanthimos’ debut, which revolved around a family living in confinement reminiscent of the Joseph Fritzl case, here the comedy is both bleak and deadpan. And as was the case with Dogtooth, Alps is likely to divide audiences between those who find it weirdly funny and strangely fascinating and those who find it repugnant. Whatever your opinion, however, there’s no denying the confidence and command Lanthimos brings to this deeply eccentric tale, which slowly unfolds in a series of static camera shots and has a kind of icy coolness to it that has the effect of making the weird appear that much weirder.
If there’s a problem with Alps it’s that it lacks the clear social critique of its predecessor. Where Dogtooth worked well as a satire about capitalism in crisis (and it was made ahead of Greece’s current economic ill-fortune), it’s unclear just what the satirical intent of Alps is. Beyond the film being a parable about emotional disengagement, it’s hard to see what, if anything, Lanthimos is saying about modern Greece. And without that clear focus, the film feels a bit off-piste.
Selected release from Fri 9 Nov.