'The Waiter': Film Review

Courtesy of Filmiki Productions
An intriguingly minimalist Greek noir.

Writer-director Steve Krikris' feature debut premiered in Thessaloniki and recently played competition at the Luxembourg City Film Festival.

The Greek weird wave meets The Postman Always Rings Twice in The Waiter, a minimalist, darkly deadpan neo-noir from debuting writer-director Steve Krikris. With scant dialogue and an offbeat brand of humor, the film follows a lonely Athens server caught up in a fatal love triangle that throws his well-ordered life into disarray. Competently made, with crisp wide-screen cinematography and an economic sense of storytelling, this subtly promising first feature has toured a handful of European festivals (Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Luxembourg) and deserves more exposure abroad.

The opening reel, which follows humdrum café employee Renos (Aris Servetalis) in his daily routine of serving customers, ironing his uniform and pursuing his hobby as a botanist, sets the stage for what could be a rather uneventful, slice-of-life drama.

But after a few days where nothing much happens, Renos suddenly comes across the body parts of his hotshot neighbor, Milan (Antonis Myriagos), in the dumpster across the street from their building. The next night he runs into “The Blond” (Yannis Stankoglou), a creepy man with serial killer eyeglasses who has moved into Milan’s apartment without much of an explanation. Could The Blond be the killer?

From that point on, The Waiter transforms from a quietly observational story, with echoes of Aki Kaurismaki’s poker-faced dramedies, into something closer to James M. Cain, all the while maintaining its quirky and distant tone throughout. Lured into the world of The Blond, which includes a beautiful femme fatale, Tzina (Chiara Gensini), who may be an accomplice to murder, Renos finds his monotonous life spinning in a  hazardous direction that may make him the next victim.

Not that you would know it, though, because Servetalis never so much as cracks a smile or a frown in The Waiter, guarding the same removed composure of a man who has chosen to build a wall between himself and the rest of the world. “This is what I am now,” he says to a fellow server early on, summing up an existence resigned to delivering drinks and pastries in a fancy Athens bakery, and a home life that consists of studying, drawing and taking care of an extensive plant collection in his apartment.

When all that harmony is threatened by a dead body, you can feel Renos’ universe slowly but surely crumbling. In one of the movie’s more memorable scenes, he gets coerced into having dinner at The Blond’s flat across the hall, where the latter serves a meat-heavy gourmet meal in the nonchalantly menacing way that Hannibal Lechter would. Later on, the two meet up with Tzina at a local spa, and even if Renos gets a whiff of the inherent danger involved, he can’t resist.

If things progress more or less according to the laws of film noir in the last act, with the three characters headed toward pending doom, Krikris’ assured direction makes The Waiter generally compelling to watch. Working with talented DP Giorgos Karvelas (the upcoming Digger), he composes extremely intricate, orderly frames that resemble the extreme order of Renos’ ways, which have something of the anal-retentiveness of Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread.

Indeed, like Woodcock, Renos will see his perfect equilibrium disturbed by elements beyond his control, although you get the feeling here that the mundane waiter secretly longs for some kind of change. And yet by allowing change to enter into his life, he may well have ruined it.

Production company: Filmiki Productions
Cast: Aris Servetalis, Yannis Stankoglou, Chiara Gensini, Alexandros Mavropoulos, Antonis Myriagos
Director, screenwriter: Steve Krikris
Producers: Nikolas Alavanos, Steve Krikris
Director of photography: Giorgos Karvelas
Production designer: Kostas Pappas
Costume designer: Natasha Sarris
Editors: Yorgos Mavropsaridis, Ioanna Pogiantzi
Composer: Coti K.
Sales: TVCO

In Greek
94 minutes