Eerie and alienating drama about family ties
A tale of family secrets, cultural detachment and lingering prejudices with a generous helping of European misery, Dead Europe is Australian director Tony Krawitz’s second narrative feature, following 2005’s Jewboy.
Ewen Leslie plays Isaac, an Australian photographer of Greek origin preparing to travel to Athens where he’s been invited to exhibit his work. It’s his first visit to Europe, lent further significance when his father Vassily (William Zappa) mysteriously takes his own life. Isaac’s travels consequently become a voyage of personal and familial discovery, beginning with a trip to scatter his father’s ashes in the Greek village where Vassily grew up. His trip also includes a visit to Paris and a reunion with his wayward brother Nico (Marton Csokas) in Budapest. As Isaac travels he encounters superstition, poverty and resentment and he’s haunted by the visage of a boy Josef (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who he fails to help.
Dead Europe is part mystery, part family drama, with shades of psychological horror. It lays on the grit, but in contrast maintains a cool, somewhat impenetrable façade. This is a film with plenty to say about the gulf between generations, and the ghosts of Europe - both living and dead – and yet at just 83-minutes its feels extremely compressed. As Isaac, Leslie is too passive and unknowable - events seem to simply happen to him as if he’s experiencing them in a walking daze - and whilst the effect might be eerie it’s also alienating. There are moments where matters almost descend into farce but Krawitz’s film remains staunchly, oppressively humourless. Stunning and moodily atmospheric but dramatically sketchy, Dead Europe gives a mere snapshot of a continent falling to pieces and ultimately fails to bring its intriguing personal story to life.
Selected release from Fri 14 Dec.