Yorgos Lanthimos’s film Dogtooth disturbed and impressed a lot of people, and I doubt his new film ALPS will receive a different reaction. Following a similar narrative line, about a strange situation between a group of people that is revealed and observed during the film, it stands as farcical comedy where the previous film was black comedy. The people in this film are a group who help the recently bereaved by taking the place of those who have died: a wife, a husband, a daughter. The group suffers under its own strange political power struggles, as well the obsession of one of its members with one of her ‘characters’.
ALPS is visually grittier than its predecessor, but that suits with its reflection on the odd camaraderie that can form in contemporary urban life, and our frequently unhealthy attachment to strangers. The camera finds itself steady on its group of unsteady people, donning a cinema verite style of off-centre framing, as though the audience is peeking at the characters from around a corner with one eye, unable to keep from watching the obvious train wreck some people are making of their lives and unable to interfere or stop it. In some ways the characters elicit less sympathy than expected, as they take emotional advantage of the vulnerable, but the havoc one of them ends up wreaking on herself is almost too much to bear. Lanthimos is certainly one of the most original filmmakers working in cinema today.