director Athina Rachel Tsangari
Attenberg, a film from Greek director/producer Athina Rachel Tsangari, is cut from a simliar cloth to the films of colleague and countryman, Yorgos Lanthimos. Tsangari produced both Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011), Lanthimos’s surrealist visions of present day Greece. Dogtooth utilized the same cinematographer, Thimios Bakatatakis, and furthermore, Lanthimos appears in Attenberg.
They share much in aesthetics and discourse, as well as in tonality. Attenberg differs in that it addresses itself much more plainly and clearly to Greece itself, whereas Lanthimos’s films take place in a more generalized society.
All of the films focus on people living outside of society, either socially inept or ignorant, people who crave connections but whose only access to human relationships are tweaked and bizarre. In Attenberg, 23-year old Marina (Ariane Labed), has one friend, Bella (Evangelia Randou), with whom she shares a strange, close but unusual relationship. They practice kissing, singing, spitting, walking/dancing in rhythm throughout the film as if their relationship is a codified practice, not an emotional connection. Marina is very close to her dying father, Spyros (Vangelis Mourikis) but similarly has awkward communications with him, most comfortable when she and he watch animal documentaries and act like the creatures of the films of David Attenborough. Spyros is a former architect, who wonders aloud if his profession is really all about building ruins.
The acting style is deadpan, broken away from naturalism, further suggesting the discomfort of relationships and human connections. For all of Marina’s trying, she seems to make progress, starting a relationship with an engineer she meets (Lanthimos), though she really doesn’t know what she is doing.
I realized at some point, while watching the film, that it would probably strike others as particularly weird. Marina and Bella’s marching/dancing/routines, which intercut throughout the story, are really never outwardly explained. It’s quite bizarre in its own way. And quite comical. Though it’s executed with utmost seriousness.
Attenberg, like Lanthimos’s films, I think are pretty interesting. They are disconcerting, dealing with weird, complex emotions about dysfunctional human interactions. They craft surreal world views in a recognizable space. And despite their disquieting qualities, invoke humor and are also aesthetically pleasing. These three films could easily be shown together, in any order, in any pairing and evoke similar sensibilities. Strange, evocative, oddness.