Giorgos Lanthimos created a lot of buzz with his previous film Dogtooth, in which someone tries to break free from a fictitious environment and break into the real world. In Alps similar fictitious worlds are created and the lead, played by Aggeliki Papoulia, tries to escape into them rather than away from them. The Alps are a bizarre group of individuals offering a very unique service, members of the team can be hired out to fill the place of a deceased loved one for a few hours a week, re-enacting classic scenes from their life.
With such a bizarre concept it is all too easy for a film to feel inauthentic and too odd to settle into. Lanthimos combats this by not burdening the audiences with too much exposition. The theory of the Alps is never really explained, it is up to the audience to figure out what is happening at their own pace. Naturally this meant I spent a lot of time confused and bewildered but I got there in the end.
The Hollywood version of Alps is not hard to imagine, with a new rookie recruit being taken through the process so that we’re all clear on the themes of the film. It is a relief that Lanthimos shies away from this. By not explaining the concept it somehow comes across as more natural and not out of place in the world we live in. As soon as you understand what is happening, you accept it and move on.
On the whole Alps has a wonderfully natural feel that draws you in and the tight running time means the film never lets you go. An unusual beast, Alps is intriguing, comic, moving and brutal. If Charlie Kaufman were to make a Greek film, it would look a lot like this but would be half an hour too long.
Alps has no UK release yet but surely will do soon.