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Released 9 November 2012
Director Giorgos Lanthimos

Stavros Psyllakis, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed, Aggeliki Papoulia, Erifili Stefanidou

Efthymis Filippou, Giorgos Lanthimos

Giorgos Lanthimos, Athina Rachel Tsangari
Origin Greece
Running Time 93 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC

Great heights.

Alps is the new feature from Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos, who scored a critical hit with Dogtooth in 2009. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of that film. A wilfully strange premise set within a claustrophobic world, it felt too self-conscious to make much impact beyond that of a curio. With Alps, Lanthimos has made another strange film which almost defies description but this time around it works. Its obscurity is intriguing rather than exasperating which is a good job because the intrigue comes thick and fast from the beginning of the film.

In the first few scenes we are introduced to seemingly unconnected characters; a young rhythmic gymnast (Ariane Labed) and her coach (Johnny Vekris), a paramedic (Aris Servetalis) and a nurse (Aggeliki Papoulia). The introduction to these characters sees them grounded in a realistic world but acting in a surreal way. The coach threatens his student with violence for suggesting she dance her routine to a pop song, while the paramedic quizzes a critically ill girl on her favourite movie star. It is an ominous beginning winding its way to a bewildering explanation. These people are members of a group called Alps (so named because it doesn’t have any relation to what they do), who make their living by impersonating the dead loved ones of grieving people.

It is an interestingly off kilter premise and its execution follows suit. Lanthimos’ direction favours uncomfortable close-ups and off centre framing where characters appear half out of shot. The performances meanwhile seem designed to discourage empathy. Paramedic and coach are both figures of quiet menace while the nurse (whom we spend the most time with) is a disquieting mix of anxiety and cool detachment. The motivation for their scheme is also unfathomable. The Alps are hardly convincing in their portrayals and the bereaved don’t seem to get much comfort out of it. It does however make for some wonderfully uncomfortable viewing.

It is this combination that makes Alps a singular experience that plays on the mind. Lanthimos has created a world a half step removed from our own and the result is disturbing yet ultimately compelling.

- Linda O’Brien