Bear in mind as I discuss this film that it forms part of the London Film Festival’s Experimenta strand meaning that it is experimental; something a little different and so likely to go completely over my head.
A french detective (Dominique Pinon) is investigating the financial collapse of Greece during the recent eurozone crisis. He goes to a sphinx (Gabriella Wright) and accuses her of stealing from the Greeks. The sphinx then goes on to retell ancient Greek plays by editing the script for scenes out as we watch both the scenes that are being acted and her at a computer screen. The Greek plays about Antigone (Julia Faure), Creon (John Shrapnel), and Oedipus (Lex Shrapnel) are presented to draw parallels between the ancient morality tales and modern-day politics and the bureaucracy that has led Greece to such an unstable position.
In amongst these surreal vignettes the film contains documentary elements involving real modern-day Greeks including interviews with philosophers, economists, politicians, and members of the public. To add more confusion to the mix sometimes the actors seem to be talking out of character but about their character. The collective effect of all these elements is a powerful one. And a confusing one.
OXI did not seem to be on the audience’s side and stepped immediately into its odd format without feeling the need to prepare viewers for what was coming. For such an unusual film I felt that I needed some guidance in how to deal with the film but instead simply sat and experienced it almost like a dream. My knowledge of ancient Greek literature is as limited as you might expect so I am unsure if I simply lacked the basic background knowledge to fully “get” the film. At various times I thought I was lost before grasping with my mind and finally getting a hold again on this slippery piece of cinema.
I will happily admit that the film left me baffled and at times exhausted but for the most part it was a gripping and involving experience. When you aren’t sure of the narrative of a film nor whether the person on-screen about to speak is an actor or a real person you are forced to sit up and take notice. I found myself hanging on every word trying to decipher what was happening and when I was unable to grasp the meaning of specific dialogue I instead went on attempting to simply understand the base emotions being conveyed.
What I got from the film was a real sense of anger and injustice at what has happened to the Greek economy. If that was what the filmmaker Ken McMullen was trying to convey then the film was undeniably a success.
Just please don’t make me try to explain it again. This is definitely an example of where art meets cinema and I invite you to watch it but please do tread lightly.
OXI: An Act of Resistance has no UK release date yet but screens at the London Film Festival on the 9th of October 2014.