So inevitable is the comparison any new Greek film of unusual aspects will draw to Dogtooth that Miss Violence decides in its opening shot to go ahead and make it for us. Walking down a corridor toward an awaiting family crowded round a cake, the two similarly-clad girls on whom the movie opens are as unmistakably aligned with their counterparts in Giorgos Lanthimos’ trend-setter as they are eerily akin to the spectral siblings of The Shining. That likeness seems all the more apt after the younger—the birthday girl, all of eleven years old—drifts away from the significant clan who dance and chuckle and take photographs around her and, face blossoming in a ripe smile, dutifully throws herself from their fourth storey balcony.
The director is Alexandros Avranas, whose pre-credits Dogtooth disclaimer works well equally as an acknowledgment of evident influence and a rebut of sorts to excess equivalence.
Any family caught in the clutches of tragedy is bound to behave a little oddly; the anomalies that attend the child’s departure here, though, are altogether more telling. It’s not lax attention that keeps the audience from understanding who is related to whom and how in this household; when the patriarch is first called “grandfather” some thirty minutes in, it’s an awaited answer that only serves to invite more questions. That we thirst for further answers as much as we fear them is the film’s strongest suit. It’s Themis Panou’s mercurial meanness in this quasi-dictatorial role that’s effective above all: here weighing cornflakes, there suddenly slapping one of the kids, he’s a (grand)dad whose dangers we daren’t believe, yet that we cannot dismiss.
The director is Alexandros Avranas, whose pre-credits Dogtooth disclaimer works well equally as an acknowledgment of evident influence and a rebut of sorts to excess equivalence. For as much as the respective films’ focus on fractured families and fascistic fathers might equate them idealistically, it’s a mistake to assume the similarity of approach renders the newcomer null and void. Truth though it be that the slap-to-the-face shock of Lanthimos’—for want of a better term—social surrealism offers an ostensible precedent to which Avranas’ might seem but a pale imitation, there’s a unique appeal to the way his aesthetic establishes itself as an equally allegorical and actual reflection of Greek society at its most intimate level.
…adapting a formalism of a rigidity to match his patriarch’s rules, Avranas excels in lending sinister depth to the minutiae of family life.
He won the prize for best director in Venice, and few could begrudge him; adapting a formalism of a rigidity to match his patriarch’s rules, Avranas excels in lending sinister depth to the minutiae of family life. Scantily shot school runs and carefully blocked dinner placements project precisely the perfect family unit this clan are not. And as their efforts to attain an air of normalcy in the wake of their telling tragedy begin to falter, so too does Avranas allow his camera to wander, following their movements to new places, and new revelations. The culminating shot is considerable, a multi-minute march through the home with a technical tension second only to the strangeness of a camera gaze that drifts from first to third person and back.
It’s at once the peak of the film’s formalist finesse and the most overt of its offences against itself, drawing the viewer in directly where the narrative seeks to seduce by suggestion. The result is a form that befits and belittles function, an appropriate enough outcome perhaps for a film that’s foremost an indictment of a society that seems shaped to swallow itself. Miss Violence renders the national as familial, reworking unfathomable universality as impalpable particularity and reclaiming the political as personal by the most visceral means it has to hand. It is imperfect because it is so angry. And it is its anger that makes it so awfully, awfully effective.
[notification type=”star”]74/100 ~ GOOD. Miss Violence renders the national as familial, reworking unfathomable universality as impalpable particularity and reclaiming the political as the personal by the most visceral means it has to hand. [/notification]