Attenberg

Review by Jason Wood @jwoodfilm

Directed by

Athina Rachel Tsangari

Starring

Ariane Labed Vangelis Mourikis Yorgos Lanthimos

Anticipation.

From the same stable as the highly regarded Dogtooth.

Enjoyment.

A film of constant and illuminating surprises

In Retrospect.

Intelligent, inventive and incredibly engaging.

Largely eschewing the shock tactics of Dogtooth, Attenberg is arguably superior and certainly more embraceable.

Athina Rachel Tsangari began her career in film with a role in Richard Linklater’s Slacker in 1991. Since then, she’s made a micro-budget sci-fi road movie shot in nine cities around the world; programmed the politically engaged media section of Austin’s Cinematexas International Short Film Festival; designed large-scale projections for dance and theatre installations; and founded a creative office – Haos – that develops and produces work with fellow Greek filmmakers. Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is just of one her credits.

Here she directs the story of 23-year-old Marina (Ariane Labed), who is growing up with her architect father in a prototype factory town. Finding the human species strange and repellent, she keeps her distance, observing it through the songs of Suicide, the documentaries of Sir David Attenborough (mispronounced and lending the film it’s title), and the sex education lessons she receives from her only friend, Bella (Evangelia Randou).

When an engineer (Yorgos Lanthimos) comes to town to complete a project, Marina is assigned the task of driving him around. After an ice-breaking table football duel, a relationship of sorts develops. Meanwhile, her terminally ill father ritualistically prepares for his exit from the twentieth century, which he considers to be ‘overrated’. Caught between the two men and Bella, Marina begins to investigate for herself the wondrous mystery of the human fauna.

Attenberg retains an organic connection with the other films to emerge from Tsangari’s Haos initiative. Many of the cast and crew are regular collaborators, while Lanthimos not only assumes the producer role but also gives a performance of genuine charm as the outsider who helps open Marina’s eyes to a world she can actually engage with rather than dispassionately observe. Labed is simply terrific, avoiding the potential pitfall of affectation in a performance that earned her the Best Actress award at Venice

Largely – though not entirely – eschewing the shock tactics of Dogtooth, Attenberg is arguably the superior and certainly more embraceable work. A film about disconnectedness that combines intellectual and emotional rigour with a sardonic, often absurdist, black humour, it exudes both a refreshing innocence (despite being brutally frank on the subjects of death and sexuality) and bracing sense of discovery.

Published 2 Sep 2011

Tags: Greek Cinema

Anticipation.

From the same stable as the highly regarded Dogtooth.

Enjoyment.

A film of constant and illuminating surprises

In Retrospect.

Intelligent, inventive and incredibly engaging.

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