Attenberg, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, stars Ariane Labed as Marina, Evangelia Randou as her best friend Bella, Vangelis Mourikis as Marina’s father Spyros, and Yorgos Lanthimos as The Engineer. The film takes place in a Greek waterfront town, described by Spyros as “concrete on top of a farming community.” His cynicism is justified this year, as the world watches Greece stumble through international debt, perhaps indeed a result of its rushed transition into the industrial age.
Spyros also talks about the revolution against the communists when he was young. It is a powerful theme, “optimistic bourgeois modernists” growing old and watching the world crumble into ruins around them, their dreams deferred. But that is only part of what Attenberg is about. Most of it deals with the latent ennui of 23-year-old Marina, who is just now grasping the significance of Eros and Thanatos. Late enough to be alienated from her peers, to find sex disgusting, and to have trouble accepting the inevitable death of her father.
The editing of Sandrine Cheyrol and Matt Johnson and the cinematography by Thimios Bakataki aims to exaggerate the passing of time. Travel-time is included between each setting. The silences are drawn out, the ambient noise creating a soothing trance for the viewer. Therefore this coming-of-age tale and the lessons Marina learns – arrive unhurried.
The setting is both contemporary and timeless. The director does an amazing job of portraying Marina’s view of the world. All Marina sees is what is there. For the large part, the mise-en-scène is industrial and clinical- the only reality modernists are taught to see. The town is dominated by mines and factories and hospitals and rectangles. Marina and Bella create bizarre dances to fight this dreariness and regularity. Much like the french soundtrack, they inject their own music which combats the concrete. The two friends often act as animals, literally. This is their Yoga, getting in touch with their subconscious natures through physical movement, although they do not express this in words. In fact, only the bare minimum is said in Attenberg…just enough to get a few ideas across. In this way, Attenberg is both placid and interesting. Just remember to read between the subtitles.