In her highly acclaimed second film, Athina Rachel Tsangari tells the story of Marina, an introverted, slightly awkward young woman whose life in a Greek factory town is divided between caring for her dying father, being instructed in sexual matters by her best friend Bella, and working as a driver for visitors to the town. A fan of David Attenborough (mispronounced “Attenberg”) and his wildlife documentaries, she critically observes the human species, finding it strange and its sexual rituals repellent. But with her beloved father’s death approaching and the arrival of a stranger in form of the engineer Yorgos, Marina tries to advance from observing to experimenting.
It is not difficult to spot the stylistic similarities between Katzelmacher and Attenberg, the most obvious one being Marina and Bella repeatedly walking arm in arm towards the camera. This is directly borrowed from Katzelmacher, though Fassbinder always has different couples carry out this ritual that interrupts the spatial flatness of the other shots. Tsangari also likes arranging her characters in front of a plain wall (for example immediately in the opening scene). Though her characters are more expressive than the Katzelmacher cast, their exchanges are also rather laconic. And yet, Tsangari’s attitude towards her character is sympathetic. The distancing effects serve more to convey the observant, estranged attitude of her protagonist and to break the emotional impact of what is ultimately a story about loss and the difficulties of sexual awakening. What is also different is that Tsangari uses these effects to introduce a subtle humour and a sense of the absurd into the story.
Greece 2010, colour, 97 mins. With English subtitles. Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari. With Ariane Labed, Vangelis Mourikis, Evangelia Randou, Yorgos Lanthimos.
This screening is part of our film series Fassbinder and European Cinema