Four people meet in a gymnasium, a paramedic a gymnast, her coach, and a nurse. They decide on a name for their group, ‘Alps’ and each is given the name of one of the Swiss mountains, for example the groups autocratic leader, the paramedic, takes Mont Blanc for his moniker. The reason for the existence of this organisation is to provide a service for paying customers, with members of the group acting the part of the recently deceased for relatives and friends for a few hours per week in order to ease the bereaved into letting go. For an hourly rate they impersonate a beloved daughter, lost lover or in one case a cheating spouse of a blind woman.
Devotees of Yorgos Lanthimos the Athens born filmmaker, theatre director and writer will not find this wee synopsis strange at all. Lanthimos was involved in 2009’s Dogtooth, as director, and as co-producer and actor in 2010’s Attenberg two wonderfully unique Greek movies that should not be missed. The director’s latest movie Alps (2011) stars Aggeliki Papoulia (Dogtooth) as the nurse and the Greek born French actress Ariane Labed (Attenberg) as the gymnast, both superbly underlining Lanthimos’s depiction of Greek societies view and treatment of women. It’s a film where it difficult to distinguish between reality and the groups play-acting, is it really the nurses father or just another job? It also includes unconventional references to American pop and movie culture! But all three films mentioned have two thing’s in common: make believe and how poeple yearn after relationships no matter how force and meaningless.
In interviews Lanthimos has revealed that the film was made on a restricted budget with limited technical means and lacked any form of state support, conditions obviously not helped by the Greece’s financial crisis. But what he has made is an unemotional, opaque film that’s strangely watchable.