Film bits and bobs
Review first published by Film4
Synopsis: Alexandros Avranas directs a domestic tale of modern Greece and ancient patriarchy.
Review: In a sequence about halfway through Alexandros Avranas’ Miss Violence, mother of four Eleni (Eleni Roussinou) goes with her family’s Father (Themis Panou) to the house of one of his friends. During this visit, seated in silence on the couch and without any warning, Eleni throws up. It is a striking irruption into the film’s surface order – an order maintained by cinematographer Olympia Mytilinaiou’s wide framing and sedate camera movements, and by the chilly quiet that pervades every scene. Whether Eleni’s vomit is mere morning sickness (she is pregnant again), an expression of disgust with her circumstances, or even a sly attempt, however vain, at resistance, it reflects and embodies the queasy sense of revulsion that has been building in the viewer since the film started.
Miss Violence begins with Eleni’s daughter Angeliki (Chloe Bolota) calmly and deliberately jumping from the balcony of the family apartment during her eleventh birthday party. By opening his film with this clear sign that something is very wrong in the household, Avranas can, at least at first, elide the titular violence and deep dysfunction that dominates the family, so that he can instead, along with us, observe everything from a clinical Haneke-esque distance, letting his narrative ellipses tell their own story. Tacitly abetted by the Grandmother (Reni Pittaki), the Father also attentively monitors and controls the lives of Eleni, Angeliki’s two sisters (Sissy Toumasi, Kalliopi Zontanou) and her brother (Constantinos Athanasiades), in a domestic arrangement which, despite its contemporary setting, quickly assumes the incestuous tropes of an ancient Greek tragedy.
The obvious precursor to this tale of claustrophobic familial perversion is Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth (2009), but Avranas’ film is less overtly surreal, and more attuned to the way that traditional modes of patriarchy can break down in times of economic instability – even if the household door remains shut to real, revolutionary progress.
In a nutshell:Patriarchy rules and revulsion offers little escape in this sickly Haneke-esque modern Greek tragedy.