So this may just be my favorite movie from the marathon so far (with Memories of Underdevelopment being second best). The only thing I knew going in was that this is supposed to be a retelling of an ancient Greek myth (of the tale of Daphne and Chloe). My knowledge of Greek mythology being virtually non-existent, this meant I knew nothing going in.
I was taken with the movie right from the beginning. The opening credits feature these cool drawings which immediately put me in the mode that whatever was to follow was like a fable/fairytale of sorts.
The opening scenes are of this group of male shepherds who arrive at a seaside town that seems to be populated entirely by women. We eventually learn that the women are the wives of fishermen who are all out at sea. In a slightly bizarre turn, all the women hide out immediately upon seeing the group of men arrive and there is no further contact between the groups. The only exceptions are a young shepherd boy who embarks on some sort of silent game-play with a girl from the seaside town and an older shepherd, Tsakalos, who pursues this woman, Arta, who walks around trapping birds all the time. Seriously, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about in terms of the plot. Instead, the movie patiently and mostly silently lets us observe the budding relationship between these two couples.
So, first of all, I thought Chloe was totally awesome. I mean, I don’t mean to be offend anyone’s sensibilities* but she just carries herself with so much self-assurance and confidence that it’s no wonder, Skymnos can’t help but fall under her spell. But that’s not to say that Skymnos came up short. He seems so childlike and yet had this strong-silent-type thing going for him. I totally loved all these scenes where Skymnos and Chloe are just being really young and walking around and sort of playing games with one another or fishing/hunting and being flirtatious. Set in this rocky, seaside location, these make for pretty screenshots too!
Then, there’s the adult couple. They seem playful in their own way as well. I liked the idea that she, who herself seems trapped in a marriage that she perhaps isn’t too happy with, is obsessed with trapping and releasing birds. Their conversations were pretty reminiscent of other films – L’Eclisse for instance, perhaps – in that their responses to each other are enigmatic and I often felt like there was a gap between what they said and what they did (especially Arta). But the whole bird (freedom?) motif really worked for me. Really beautiful.
And then we come to the ending which is heartbreaking and stunning and just so memorable. Like a really tragic fairytale which was just so appropriate given that the entire film feels exactly like that. Other things I should probably mention. I liked the way it ever so subtlely brings up some stuff about people and animals/birds. They all seem to be fond of animals and yet display cruelty towards them on occasion (Arta’s whole trapping business). I don’t know if that was intentional or whether I just got intrigued by the whole thing and found myself thinking about it while watching the movie. I should mention the music too. Again, really helped enhance the mood of the movie. I thought it sounded pretty great. Oh, and I was a little confused about one aspect of the ending. Does Skymnos realize that the mute shepherd forced himself onto Chloe or does he think Chloe abandoned him for the other guy? Is that ever clear in the movie?
Finally, here’s what my Greek friend had to say when I told him that this is what I was going to go home and watch – “Oh, that soft porn movie that won him all those awards?”. Sigh .