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Monday, 15 October 2012 00:00

It’s an uphill battle with ‘Alps’

prx.org prx.org
Written by Diane Carson
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Slowly, deliberately, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos builds the story his film “Alps” tells, and that’s a good thing because the story becomes increasingly strange. Four characters drive the meandering and sometimes confusing story. These two men and two women assume the identities of recently deceased loved ones—not for nefarious purposes but to ease the grief of those left behind.

The four include an ambulance assistant and a woman who pretends to be a tennis player, a rhythmic gymnastic dancer and her coach. They memorize familiar dialogue of the deceased and their loved ones and approximate the appearance of the dead. Then they slip into the disrupted relationships, sometimes repeating them over and over, since we are creatures of habit, the film seems to suggest. In so doing, the four get paid to help those left behind to adjust and move on.

However, as presented in “Alps,” it is difficult to discern the acting from the real portions of the individuals’ lives—for the characters and for us as viewers. In fact, those who assume identities slowly lose some of their own definition, perhaps inviting serious philosophical questions that we should contemplate in the long periods of inaction in the film. If they play roles so well, who are they? Do they slowly but progressively absorb characteristics of that deceased person and lose some uniqueness of their own?

“Alps” never directly asks nor does it clarify its points. In fact, long quiet periods blur the meaning. The title may suggest a direction. The rigidly principled, tough leader names the group Alps because, first, and I quote, “It is purely symbolic and in no way reveals what they do.” He adds, “The Alps cannot be replaced by any other mountains. Anything else would be smaller and less imposing, a poor substitute.” But, he explains, “The Alps could replace any other mountain.” The pursuit of such ideas must interest any viewer for this low-key film, defined by a drab color design, stretches of quiet contemplation, many still, shallow depth of field shots, and obtuse ideas.

In English and Greek with English subtitles. The St. Louis premiere of “Alps” is at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 19th through Sunday, October 21st. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.
 

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