Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is decidedly divisive cinema. The film played on the festival circuit back in 2010 (I took it in at SXSW in a tiny screening library room, via DVD on a tiny television) and ended up garnering a surprise Best Foreign Film nomination at the Oscars, but all that certainly doesn’t mean that the film is fit to be enjoyed (or possibly even consumed) by everyone.
The film focused on a Greek family with three adult children who had been isolated from the world by their parents (namely their father) and taught to fear not only other people, but nearly everything else, especially cats. To further their isolation, the kids were taught incorrect meanings for words, leaving them essentially unable to express themselves to others, should they ever encounter them. There was also an incest storyline. Sound heavy? It was – and wasn’t. Dogtooth is wonderfully unsettling cinema, littered with humor darker than coal, and more messages about family and society than you could count on your fingers and toes. I loved it, but I also absolutely understand why other people don’t.
Now Lanthimos is back with a new film, Alps, which will premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Much like Dogtooth, the film looks to imagine an alternate sense of reality within the regular world. In the world of Alps, members of the titular group perform a service – they “stand in” for deceased people for their grieving loved ones. And, like Dogtooth, that serious plotline doesn’t hint at the real bones of the film – black as night humor. While the first teaser doesn’t show much plot, it does show some Lanthimos style humor. Check out the teaser trailer, and a mountain of other Alps information, after the break.
THE 15 RULES OF THE ALPS
- 1. Must declare in advance the things they are unwilling to do by filling out Form (e.g. kissing, lifting weights, travelling etc.)
- 2. Must declare in advance the things they are good at by filling out Form (e.g. dancing, waterskiing, discussing etc.)
- 3. Must have some basic knowledge of psychology and sociology.
- 4. Are obliged to support, under all circumstances, the interests of the Alps group.
- 5. Must respect each other.
- 6. Have the right to change their nickname only twice. They cannot choose a nickname belonging to another Alps member. The nickname must strictly be the name of a mountain in the Alps, and not something general or irrelevant (e.g. Blonde, Master, Dragon etc.)
- 7. Can never talk about Alps activities with non-Alps members.
- 8. Are obliged to take the Gymnastics Club Test, if necessary.
- 9. Must be over 14 years of age.
- 10. Should always be smart, clean, punctual, and in complete control.
- 11. Must never get emotionally involved with clients, or have intimate relations with them.
- 12. Cannot change their physical appearance without the Leader’s permission (e.g. dye hair, lose or gain weight, wear coloured contact lenses etc.)
- 13. Must be able to make convincing facial expressions (sadness, happiness, despair etc.)
- 14. Must honour the title of their membership, and be ready to kill or die for it.
- 15. Must never attack one another, and must believe in teamwork.
Mont Blanc, Leader of the Alps group
While these rules are all fine and dandy, previous synopses have hinted that at least one member of the group doesn’t follow them to the letter. That, my friends, is conflict ripe for the Lanthimos treatment. [IndieWire]