Alps – Giorgos Lanthimos –After directing the critically acclaimed oddity Dogtooth and acting in Attenberg, Lanthimos’ second feature uncoils its dark premise with a haunting mystery of restraint.
‘Alps’ is the name given to a group of people who offer unorthodox services in the counselling of mourning. In a warped therapy of substitution they temporarily fill the place of whoever has died, acting out (with varying degrees of conviction) the character and actions of the recently deceased. The character around which this darkly humorous theatre unravels is played, Aggeliki Papouilia, the same actress who portrayed the rebellious sister in Dogtooth. Lanthimos uses her gaunt and awkward frame to similar ends, enacting displays of social discomfort, detached sex, deranged dancing and a desperately uneasy misunderstanding of any emotional interaction. She is a nurse, while also being a member of ‘Alps’. She comes to enact the role of a girl who has recently died in a car crash. However, in reanimating the dead daughter’s existence for the bereaved family – dressing up and adopting her phrases – her new identity becomes a dangerously comforting alternative to her own lonely existence.
Unlike Dogtooth, which felt contained and neatly crafted in its blackly comic world and conducive to allegorical speculation, Alps feels more lingeringly unresolved. Although utilizing similar themes (the meanings arbitrarily mapped in language, social dislocation, deception, escape and intrusion) Alps eschews the starkly satirical bite of Dogtooth for something less immediate. Sharing a similarly concise running time of 90 minutes, whereas Dogtooth felt like a beguiling puzzle, Alps feels snatched away too soon. Our interpretations of the film come to stand in for its ghostly sadness, and like the bizarre ‘Alps’ collective we are driven to enact, fill and explore the same troubling lack of resolution that is left behind. 8.5/10