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BERLIN — Following a wave of macabre surrealist comedies, Greek cinema has recently begun producing a trickle of stark social dramas that respond more directly to the country’s ongoing financial woes. Premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last week, The Daughter is the third full-length feature from philosophy graduate turned writer-director Thanos Anastopoulos. Building on the sparse and semi-abstract style of his previous work, this topical thriller ultimately squanders its early promise in unfocused execution. After Berlin, it may prove interesting to art-house festivals and politically engaged film historians, but commercial appeal will be very limited.
Adrift from her estranged parents, 14-year-old Athens schoolgirl Myrto (Savina Alimani) abducts eight-year-old Aggelos (Aggelos Papadimas) and hides him in her mysteriously absent father’s lumber workshop. Her intentions are initially murky, but it slowly transpires that Myrto is preparing a cold dish of revenge for the man she blames for her father’s bankruptcy and subsequent disappearance. In between playing sadistic mind games with Aggelos, Myrto pointedly reads aloud the dictionary definitions of terms related to the current financial crisis, and wanders the streets of a city ablaze with angry demonstrations against harsh government austerity measures.
Full credit goes to Anastopoulos for weaving these real events into the plot, but The Daughter still feels half-baked. Though it begins as an intriguing mix of kidnap caper and state-of-the-nation fable, the botched thriller elements ultimately undermine the political allegory beneath. The rambling midsection drains away almost all suspense, weakening any sense of jeopardy or emotional investment in the characters. The climactic showdown in the lumber store, which features an apocalyptic fire and a child’s life under threat, is so clumsily staged it almost looks like a parody.
Technically competent and beautiful in places, The Daughter is not without its quality elements. Alimani displays impressive psychological depth in just her second screen role, while the footage of forest workers felling trees that bookends the main action is both poetic and elegantly symbolic. But taken as a whole, this underpowered experiment in topical social realism will leave most viewers, like millions of Greek people, feeling decidedly short-changed.
Venue: Berlin Forum screening, Feb. 7
Production companies: Fantasia Ltd, Mansarda Production
Producer: Stella Theodorakis
Cast: Savina Alimani, Aggelos Papadimas, Yorgos Symeonidis, Ieronymos Kaletsanos
Director: Thanos Anastopoulos
Screenwriter: Thanos Anastopoulos, Vasilis Giatsis
Cinematographer: Elias Adamis
Editors: Napoleon Stratogiannakis
Sales: Fantasia Ltd, Athens
No rating, 87 minutes
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