Lindsay Harvey, Marketing Administrator at Picturehouse, takes a look at this week’s Discover Tuesdays presentation of MISS VIOLENCE
In recent years, Greece’s global image has morphed from Mediterranean holiday idyll and home of big fat weddings to fractured hotbed of unrest. It is perhaps this change that has led to an increasing number of independent, strange and brutal new films that rage against the country’s woes.
The latest addition to the ‘Greek Weird Wave’ is MISS VIOLENCE, the second feature from director Alexandros Avranas. While it might lack the black humour of previous contributions to the genre such as Giorgos Lanthimos’s DOGTOOTH, it is clearly similar in its dark subject matter, which acts as a metaphor for Greece’s national predicament.
The opening few minutes of MISS VIOLENCE set the tone for what’s to come. Mid-way through her eerily stilted eleventh birthday party, a young girl calmly and deliberately jumps out of the window to her death, a knowing smile on her face and Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love hanging in the air.
The death is investigated and the family insist that it was an accident, but the shocking opening scene indicates that something is very wrong in the household. The sense of unease is compounded by the family’s reaction to Angeliki’s death, which is to hardly react at all: they are resigned, as if it were merely an inconvenience.
It very quickly becomes clear that Angeliki’s grandfather, the quietly iron-fisted patriarch (Themis Panou, who won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his performance), is in complete control of the family, dictating their every move with a carefully calibrated regime of privileges and punishments. He seems determined that her death won’t disrupt their tightly monitored routine.
As the antisocial and claustrophobic living situation comes to light in an effective, no-frills fashion, questions are raised about the relationships between the generations. Who is what to whom?
Like the characters themselves, the action is terrifyingly controlled, simultaneously unnerving and banal. Dark secrets are gradually revealed, and as the audience is brought closer to the motivations behind Angeliki’s suicide, the explicit and sickening revelation in the third act is simply showing us what we already know.
But it is perhaps the placid, expressionless surface – also echoed in the production design and camerawork – and the knowledge that something terrible is going on behind closed doors that, in hindsight, is the most disturbing of all.