REVIEW: MISS VIOLENCE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ALEXANDROS AVRANAS / SCREENPLAY: ALEXANDROS AVRANAS, KOSTAS PEROULIS / STARRING: KOSTAS ANTALOPOULOS, CONSTANTINOS ATHANASIADES / RELEASE DATE: JULY 7TH
Ever since Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth wowed audiences back in 2009, Greek cinema has become the new Michael Haneke. Although Lanthimos and others have weaved into the fabric of their sometimes controversial work a certain absurdist humour, the award-winning second feature by Alexandros Avranas, Miss Violence, paints it black and black only.
Angeliki (Chloe Bolota), on her 11th birthday, jumps out of an open window. She is smiling as she does so. The family appear sad and upset for five minutes and then carry on as if nothing untoward has happened. No questions are asked and no soul-searching undertaken. It’s like the poor girl has been erased from memory. But why?
For a long time, and the film’s pace is pitched at glacial, Avranas feeds the viewer crumbs of information about the dynamics at work within the family unit. From the very first scene, even before the shocking act of Angeliki’s suicide, there’s something not quite right. Could it be the Leonard Cohen song, “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, playing on the stereo system or the bland colour scheme of the home interior and costume design?
Miss Violence is an experimental mixture of thriller narrative (removed of all genre thrills), a horror movie and a detective story, complete with a series of revelations so astoundingly grim that the overall reaction, as the film draws to a close, is one of absolute devastation.
The head of the family, superbly played by Themis Panou, is a tyrant. He rules his small fiefdom like the most skilled politician. When not taking part-time employment as an accountant, he is busy overseeing every aspect of life at home. The film’s subtext can be easily enough aligned to the modern state of Greece’s troubled politics, but it casts its net even further afield to dissect the overall relationship between individual and state and the capitalist narcotic that is materialism. The family unit serves as a microcosm.
The father gives with one hand and takes with the other. He inspires conformity through fear and rewards and manipulates with promises. He abuses the most sacred trust under the assumption that nobody will stand up against him. The final twenty minutes is a descent into the darkest hell with a denouement of soul-crushing proportions.
If you look beyond the film’s ability to offend quite possibly every sensibility you hold dear, there’s much to think about and take from it. Nevertheless, Miss Violence is a despairing picture and a tough viewing experience.