Place a group of homeless teenagers in an abandoned stadium, add sex and alcohol and wild dogs, and what happens? Sofia Exarchou sets this against the background of Greek austerity in her debut film Park, and the results are highly volatile. Through Park, Exarchou has clearly defined her voice, which is sure to be among the most interesting new voices in cinema.
The film follows a band of misanthropic kids who inhabit the abandoned Olympic Village in Athens. Two in particular, Dimitri (Dimitris Kitsos) and Anna (Dimitra Valgkopoulou) attract one another, her with flirtatious dancing, and he with his shy personality that sets him apart from the rest. There are sexual misadventures, wild excitements, and lusty emotions, which gradually, like everything else around them, fall apart and die. Both proceed on downward spirals, particularly Dimitri, whose descent is heartbreaking.
Exarchou imbues the film with an anarchic, punk vibe. The camera scans the actors’ bodies, dodges punches, gets in the thick of everything, such that the viewer is on edge for much of the film. It’s raw, and it’s gripping. Exarchou’s actors, all amateurs, are brilliant, conveying their emotions with very little dialogue. None hold back, often being put into positions that are degrading and debasing. They seem to act by instinct, like the animals which wander through the film. At certain points, the actors themselves end up on all fours, barking, spitting, snarling at one another- becoming creatures before our eyes. This leads me to my only criticism of the work. It’s a little on the nose. The animal metaphor regarding Greece’s relationship with the rest of Europe is obvious. In one scene, Dimitri ends up drunkenly doing a striptease for a crowd of European businesspeople, disturbingly dropping trou as onlookers yelp and hurl Euros at him. The political metaphor is too blatantly borne out. But these are first-time director issues, and with time, I’ve no doubt that Exarchou will make a tighter, more subtle film. I hope she’s able to maintain her brash anarchist vision- her boldness is unusual and refreshing. She is one to watch.
Sunday, Sept. 18, 6:45pm @ Scotiabank