Alps Review - Sydney Film Festival
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Starring: Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed
A secret group hire themselves out to grieving families, impersonating their recently deceased love ones, in order to help them move on. They call themselves the Alps, because the Alps could stand in for any other mountain range but anything you tried to replace the Alps with would be a poor substitute. Each member is given a code name of a mountain with the leader of the group known as Mont Blanc. Trouble arises when one of the group starts to go rogue.
When I saw the trailer, I thought the film would be absurd and comic but it was a lot slower and darker than I expected. The dialogue is intentionally stilted making it harder and harder to distinguish between what was real and what was a relationship that the character had taken up to help the person mourn, for both the audience and the characters. This made it difficult to form a connection or relate to the characters, accentuated by their lack of real names, and that’s not a plus when there isn’t a fast paced plot to demand your attention.
To give credit where credit is due, it did have a strong theme of loss and isolation that was almost tangible throughout the film but it wasn’t enough to completely redeem it for me. It was clearly skilfully filmed and well acted – I would like to see Aggeliki Papoulia in something else as her performance was quite captivating. But ultimately I found I had this weird push/pull relationship with the film; I failed to be engaged even though I really wanted to like the film, would finally find I was getting into the story and then something would aggressively push me out of the story and I would find myself back at the beginning of the process.
The major cause of this removal from the story were the random outbursts of violence that were incredibly disturbing and caused an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia – perhaps this was the director’s intention but it just gave me the urge to leave the cinema. Lanthimos’ other film, Dogtooth, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, and Alps was the 2012 Sydney Film Festival Official Competition winner, so the director clearly knows how to please critics. But as an average cinema goer, I could see he was talented, I just didn’t enjoy the experience.
Highlight: The gymnast’s ribbon dance at the end.