These days tragedies aren’t the only kinds of stories the Greeks know how to tell. For the last couple of years Greece has produced some of the most unique, surreal, dark, deadpan, quirky comedies around (Dogtooth, Alps, Kinetta, etc). Comedies with the kind of sense of humor that can be enjoyed by everyone from fans of Tim & Eric to fans of French new wave movies. In ‘Attenberg’, the story about the sexual awakening of a young woman, director Athina Tsangari mixes elements of ‘Dogtooth’ (directed by Attenberg costar Yorgos Lanthimos) with the playfulness of Godard in his prime. It tells the story of “Marina”: an awkward, sexually repressed/confused taxi driver in her early 20’s who’s taking care of her terminally ill father. She’s still a virgin, doesn’t really know how to kiss, isn’t sure if she’s gay or straight, has incestuous thoughts about her father and is both disgusted & curious about sex at the same time. The only person she can turn to for sexually related questions is her one friend “Bella” who’s a bit more experienced in the realm of sex & sexuality. Eventually Marina meets a guy she really likes and has to put the little bit she knows about relationships and sex to the test while coming to terms with her father’s inevitable death. The relationship between Marina and her father is very interesting. Its open & playful (see image above) and even though she has those few incestuous thoughts about her father he doesn’t feel the same way and overall they’re relationship is cool. Consider ‘Attenberg’ a coming of age tale for late bloomers in their twenties.
At various points in the movie Athina Tsangari throws in these funny/strange dance interludes between Marina and Bella (still trying to wrap my head around what those scenes have to do with the rest of the movie) reminiscent of moments in Godard’s ‘A Woman Is A Woman’, mixed with the extremely dry delivery found in a Hal Hartley movie. Actually the choreographed dance moments in ‘Attenberg’ can also be traced to Hartley’s work as well (you can find dance sequences or highly choreographed movement in Surviving Desire, Simple Men, Theory Of Achievement and other Hartley films). Somehow these new age Greek filmmakers manage to borrow from and/or draw influence from so many great sources but don’t come off as copycats at the same time. As you can tell by now I enjoyed this movie very much (I’ve been waiting to see this for two years) but part of me doesn’t wanna blow it up too much because it IS an acquired taste (the humor, the dry delivery, the acting, etc). And although it draws a worthy comparison to ‘Dogtooth’ or ‘Alps’, its still slightly different. Its more playful and experimental (keyword: experimental) than the aforementioned movies. But if you like any of the films or filmmakers I’ve mentioned in this review (as well as the no-wave/electronic punk band Suicide, who’s music plays a key component in the story) I don’t see how you cant enjoy ‘Attenberg’.