November 4, 2012

Alps: A State of Perpetual Confusion

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Can we be replaced? Is anything in this world free from becoming obsolete? Giorgos Lanthiomos, acclaimed director and writer of Dogtooth and Attenberg, tries to answer these questions in Alps. By establishing that one feature in this world has no substitute, the Alps, he attempts to map out the boundaries of just what is replaceable on this earth.

The film centers around a group, ironically named Alps, that takes on the roles of those who have recently passed away. Driven by the statement “I don’t like funerals,” they provide a service of human substitution to ease the pain of grieving families.

Members of the group live multiple lives. They wear costumes, memorize scripts; they become more than one person. The subtlety of these on screen transitions makes it hard for the audience and characters to remember which reality is their own. This dilemma is seen in Anna, the lead in the film. As she becomes more invested in replacing the identity of a deceased tennis player, she becomes increasingly unstable. She tries to make connections with those around her, falling for the boyfriend of the girl she is impersonating, yet becomes more detached from reality and her own life.

Lanthiomos is ambitious in making meaning but overly subtle in delivering it. If you didn’t read a plot summary beforehand, you would have no idea of what is going on in the movie. The same issue is found in tone. With the many awkward pauses in conversation paired with some intense arguments, a very dark atmosphere sets in. However, the film is classified as a comedy. By all means, the scripted dialogue and forced behavior is awkwardly funny, but can easily be seen as pitiful.

The absence of music throughout the film makes the viewing experience difficult, as well. While omitting a score makes the audience focus more on the raw emotions of the scene, it also makes the plot more confusing. Subtlety isn’t enough of a barrier to overcome without music to lend a helping hand.

Alps is not an enjoyable movie. It is thought-provoking, incredibly interesting but, more than anything, confusing. Many times you forget who exactly the main character is, or you find yourself over-analysing a scene only to find you’ve lost the point you thought was being made. In the end, all you are left with is: What does pop music have to do with anything?

Original Author: Ashley Popp