Last year at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, much was made about the identity adoption gimmick to Michelangelo Antonioni The Passenger in relation to the terrific Mister John, starring Aiden Gillen. In 2014 the theme returns in this utterly marvelous meditation on two lonely women who wish they could trade lives and the irrationality motivating how they attempt it. This patiently probing installment to the Keeping It Weird new wave of Greek cinema is told with precision and grace.
Anna (Kora Karvouni) is a thirtysomething IKEA employee who lives a plain and humble life in the company of her dog, Manu. Not just besotted but dependent on her canine companion, she reads children’s books to Manu at night and has him wait in the car during her shifts so they can spend lunch breaks together. This stability suddenly decimates when Manu unexpectedly dies, leaving a void to Anna which exposes a sheltered sense of loneliness. This is sympathised with by neighbour Sofia (Maria Skoula), who is far more dejected with married life than she publicly exhibits. Emotionally forsaken by her cold husband, her kind understanding towards Anna begins with letting her bury Manu in their garden but escalates to an assortment of abnormal ways for Anna to insert herself into Maria’s family.
Anna’s dependance on Manu is transferred to Maria and her family as she effectively attempts to displace herself as a pet for the household. Her disturbingly obsessive efforts to be looked after and belong to the various members of the family are mirrored by overtly pet-like behaviour as she sits attentively in the back seat of a car like a dog and repeats transfixed phrases that the family members have said to her like a parrot. There’s an authentic fragility to Anna in her bizarre management of loss; the actions of the ambivalent figure never inspire dread but are erratic enough to signal a need for genuine condolence. When she’s left alone after organising a fake birthday party, the image of her eating ice cream on her barren balcony projects a woman alarmingly uncomfortable in isolation.
Kora Karvouni’s understated handling to Anna reflects her need to speak through many quiet and gentle moments, which are well crafted by Panayotopoulou. She resonates beyond what words could dictate to us in an engaging performance that is never orchestrated to manipulate emotions or do anything but portray a normal individual in a season of suffering. It was a ten year wait for Panayotopoulou to follow up on her debut Hard Goodbyes: My Father and it would be tremendous suffering to wait that long once again, as September illustrates her talent for painting enchanting poetry onto normal lives.
Edinburgh International Film Festival, 2014.