DVD Review: Alps

STUDIO: Kino | DIRECTOR: Yorgos Lanthimos | CAST: Stavros Psyllakis, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed, Aggeliki Papoulia
DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/4/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: none
SPECS: NR | 93 min. | Foreign language drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo | Greek with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

 

Following his Oscar-nominated 2009 debut film, Dogtooth, Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos offers 2011’s Alps, another arresting parable on the absurdity of behavioral engineering.

Aggeliki Papoulia impersonates a teenager as a member of the Alps.

In modern-day Greece, four people come together as a group to offer a unique service: Taking the place of a recently deceased person in the lives of friends and family to ease their grief. The members of the group call themselves as “The Alps” because an Alp can replace any mountain, but no other mountain can replace an Alp. In their roles, they learn the activities, mannerisms and inflections of the departed. As the leader “Mont Blanc” (Aris Servetalis) notes, Alps are to mourning what methadone is to heroin withdrawal.

At first, the Alps’ interactions are formal, almost ritual-like; but then one Alp, “Monte Rosa” (Aggeliki Papoulia in a standout performance), becomes emotionally involved with her client families and chaos ensures.

Throughout, Lanthimos underscores the dehumanization of this experiment: We never learn the Alps’ real names; and speaking of dehumanization, two of the Alps are an Olympic hopeful gymnast (Ariane Labed, Attenberg) and her sadistic Béla Károlyi-like coach (Johnny Vekris). Nor does Lanthimos overlook the scenario’s inherent humor, as when a woman “discovers” an Alp (posing as her dead friend) in bed with her husband–and then redoes the scene to get it right. The first four sessions, they tell clients, are free, and then they charge (speaking of drug addiction!).

The visuals are dark and inky as befits a crossing into the land of the dead. Indeed, the ancient Greeks knew that playing with the grief process mocks nature itself. And as the modern Greeks devolve into bedlam before the world’s eyes, they teach us another dark truth: behavioral engineering doesn’t jibe that well with nature, either.

With Alps, Lanthimos proves to be a true original and a worthy exponent of the West’s oldest theatrical culture.

 

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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.