Na Kathese Ke Na Kitas (Standing Aside, Watching, directed by Yorgos Servetas)
We’re one year further along in Greece’s economic crisis with little sign of recovery. If last year’s Hellenistic submissions proved that economic duress is creatively fertile ground, this year’s Greek films show that an extra year has led to the discovery of representational modes that are properly Greek: essentially tragic and fundamentally philosophical.
With a central character called Antigone (and she has the face for it), it’s no surprise that Na Kathese Ke Na Kitas (Standing Aside, Watching, directed by Yorgos Servetas) picks up on Sophocles’ fearless, proto-feminist heroine, re-presented here as a young woman who returns to her home village to radically sunder the male stranglehold on manipulation and victimization that holds the community in thrall.
Servetas’ film binds the immediacy of fable and the distance of myth, creating everyday situations that are both archaic and contemporary, but marked by moral compromise rooted not in the euro crisis but the corruption that preceded it. These are big themes, bookended by softly declaimed “tragic” monologues and shots of roads leading nowhere. Occasionally overstating its case, the abiding impression is one of strong performances in the service of grand statements.
If you have to make a choice, though, Sto Spiti (At Home, Forum, directed by Athanasios Karanikolas—Berlinale 2013 with Echolot) is an even better matching of formal means to subject matter. It tells the story of Nadja, a migrant worker from Georgia employed by a wealthy Greek family, evicted from 20 years of employment and familial integration when she’s diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Set up with theatrical rigour, Karanikolas’ camera works with broad strokes and a maximum of three takes per scene, achieving a sense of rigorous inevitability as it progresses through three acts: exposition, change and consequence. Thrown to the wolves of welfare and a lover’s angry sympathy (“You work like a horse. They treat you like an idiot.”) Nadja reverses national stereotype, eschewing anger and envy for the stoic qualities of fortitude and dignity, whilst her former employers celebrate their release with champagne.
Very little is said. We are left to infer and induce from an elliptical narrative that’s supported by a camera as considerate as its main subject, occasionally overexposed in a mood of intense vulnerability and edited to create scenic appositions such as the one between gleaming private surgeries and lurid state hospitals. The contrast between an opening shot of calm, contented stasis as Nadja looks out over the sea and a closing scene in which she walks a migrant’s desolate plank along a coastal road is indelible. In terms of cinematic language, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Na Kathese Ke Na Kitas (Standing Aside, Watching) screens Feb 10, 22:00 (CineStar IMAX), Feb 14, 22:30 (CinemaxX 7), Feb 15, 20:15, Feb 16, 22:30 (Cubix 7&8)
Sto Spiti (At Home) screens Feb 10, 19:15 (CineStar 8), Feb 12, 22:00 (Cubix 9), Feb 13, 17:30 (Arsenal 1) and Feb 16, 18:45 (Delphi Filmpalast).