At the time this is being written, I am still processing the things I saw in George Lanthimos's Movie, "Dogtooth" ("Kynodontas" in Greek). This movie can be watched on many levels: as a darkly humorous take on the traditional Greek family, as a psychological experiment conducted on the big screen "for our eyes only", but which experiment easily draws us in and in fact, experiments on our reactions to the contrasting imagery, or even as a collection of very disturbed and disturbing images which, in fact, show that a small measure of madness and misguided love of ideals, principles and the concept of family, can go a long way towards going down in the annals of human atrocity.
I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I really needed to get the movie's aforementioned analysis - being the ONLY analysis you will get on it from me - out of my head, so that I may leave it behind me and not be tempted to get into specifics, which would only ruin the viewing for you. I was given the opportunity to see this movie during Athens's Premiere Nights thanks to Kyoshiro who, being among the people who worked on it, was sent an invitation and took me along.
Left to right: Chris Passalis, Mary Tsoni, Chris Stergioglou Angelica Pappoulia, George Lanthimos.
I have not gone to many movie premieres in my life, much less any of Greek movies, but what was taking place at DANAOS cinema was a complete first in my experience: a veritable sea of people were waiting inside and out of the cinema, filling its lobby and the sidewalk outside, to a degree that if you got caught somewhere in the middle, you simply stayed put until other people decided to move. I think the screening was actually delayed around an hour until every name and invitation had been sorted out, but it kind of reminded me of queues in Japan, where you wait leisurely around, talking and laughing, until something budges. I even saw a couple of people from my old schoolbus (!), whom I had not met with for around 10 years (I don't think they recognized me, but oh well...).
The siblings during a family celebration.
At any rate, as any of you who watch international cinema news (or simply, Greek news) know, "Dogtooth" won the award for the category "Un Certain Regard" in Cannes, the Special Jury Award in Sarajevo, and lead actress Angelica Pappoulia the "Heart of Sarajevo" for Best Actress. The reason is very simple: it's a good movie and by Greek standards over the last decade, a phenomenal one. Actors Chris Passlis, Angelica Pappoulia and Mary Tsoni play the role of three siblings, children of the eccentric parents portrayed by Chris Stergioglou and Michelle Valley.
The father has decided to restrict his children within the boundaries of his estate, home-school them and raise them with the moral principles and linguistic predilections he deems appropriate. Their only contact with the outside world is the periodic visits by a security guard, Christina, portrayed by Anna Kalaitzidou. They are to remain within the boundaries of the estate, cut-off from all external stimuli, "until such time as they are ready to leave". What time is that? Well, suffice to say that it has something to do with the movie's title but this is as far as I am willing to venture...
Michelle Valley as the mother, reposing.
Although I believe that it's a movie really worth watching (when it premieres, around the last week of October), I must warn you that it is not for the faint of heart. No - and let me stress this - it is NOT a splatter movie, but the things it depicts and the way it depicts them will gut the soft underbelly of your sensitivity (unless of course you are clinically insane) and that WILL hurt. It's not a one-rail psychological abuse either: it is also funny at the most opportune moment, with the mood alternating until the climax is reached. That way it manages to draw you in and devour you, all but defenseless. In the end, above and beyond all the things this movie is and does, it demands that you think, that you process and digest it, rather than just consume it as is.
The Unknown beyond the hedge.
If you prefer more conventional terms, the movie has great acting in extremely difficult roles, great direction and alluring photography. It is a treat for the thinking person and poison to the mindless movie-goer. That is not to say that you are not allowed to not like it, but that the verdict is not to be issued lightly.
I hope you enjoy it,
P.S. I am being intentionally vague as to any details and have posted no links to reviews and such for a good reason, so I advise you to go and see the movie without having watched even a single trailer or teaser. Trust me, small as they are, they DO spoil important things that should take you by surprise.
The looks are sideways, the eyes never meet and when they do, the constant sensation of physical pain in the bowels that clench is only replaced by panicked heartbeat, labored breathing, even asthma. The jaws hurt, the teeth grind and lips turn white from pressuring anything and everything to stay bottled inside, not daring to let it escape even by a breath and when that breath is finally taken, it seems as though you have been underwater forever; and the cycle recommences.
Welcome to the new humanity, which silences itself to death and failing that, at the very least ulcers, depression and psychological derangement galore. The scene described above is typical of today's human relationships and before we take even the least step forward, let me clarify that I mean any and all relationships, those of a romantic or sexual nature being the least of our problems.
People do not talk, but you do not need me to tell you that: even the most forward of people must sometimes weigh the consequences of their actions before speaking their mind and that could even be called extremely healthy: most of you, most of us rather, for I am no exception, do not speak our minds nearly as often as we would like to, until we forget that we would like to and leave everything squeezed inside, building pressure and as any physicist worth their salt will tell you, eventually something' s gotta give. Time was when that was the deafening silence, which burst and ripped, leaving behind a bloody mess of raw emotion, revealed secrets and all manner of wet, sticky things we keep inside our shells - and which things, then visible, could be, in time, tidied, mopped up and eventually, when required, thrown away as so much waste. Now we harden our shells so much, foolishly thinking to protect ourselves and perhaps even others, which foolishness results in our insides festering, our psychology being imbalanced, our very bodies failing or working erratically.
Then, researchers, statisticians and simple people, usually of the older generations wonder: has youth gone crazy? Why do people kill themselves all the more often? Why is there so much depression and why are therapists (shrinks, for the TV minded) among the most lucrative of professions? Why are stable relationships so rare, marriages even rarer (in comparison to what it should be, given the Earth's current population) and casual, mindless sex on the rise? Hold on, no, even sex itself is not so widespread anymore, since people can wank off in front of their screens, be Don Juans and Marquises de Saad on MySpace, Facebook, MSN, or what-have-you.
Make no mistake: we live in fear. It is a fear of ourselves, engendered by a fear of others, of how we will seem, how we will be judged and we in turn judge others, either in offense or defense and so it all goes round and round. I assure you, it is a potentially mortal fear... I would know, for it nearly killed me once: I let myself be dragged into deceit, then join in a stagnant madness which was perceived as charming by all involved and in the end I could not stand being inside my own head, let alone my skin. For 9 months, all those years ago, I was a collection of psychological conditions, all masked under a big blanket of depression. You can run, but you absolutely CANNOT hide from yourself and in such cases you end up cloistered with yourself in a room without exit, for a very long time (time is not linear in thoughts and amazingly enough, something to that effect has been proven scientifically).
Thankfully, I am not self-destructive by nature, but there is a reason why we say: "run from one's problems". So I ran and ran... for miles each night, with cold, rain, even snow and at the same time I was not eating. True, it made for a very lean and muscled body, but my constitution started failing: I ended up with something very akin to pneumonia (I do not think it was actually that, since I never had to go to the hospital) and was bedridden for weeks. However, even that did not open my eyes. Sometimes, all we see is smoke and mirrors, endlessly, seemingly infinitely. Oddly enough, people were so afraid for me and so alienated by my behavior in general, that they started talking and by that time, they were quite blunt about how fucked up I was. I, on the other hand, am not one to share my burden with others: you could even say I am extremely possessive of it, so my response was, again, silence... I did not hear their words and had none of mine to offer.
However... as I said earlier, something' s gotta give and thankfully, once every now and then one is equipped with the tools to make a chink on the outer shell, before the insides melt. That was Ergo Proxy, who did not in fact try to contradict or convince me of anything: he simply shifted my focus and with such a minute change, suddenly all was clear. It was to be expected, not so much because he probably knew me better than anyone, but because he had been fucked up in much the same way a few years earlier.
The reason I am purposefully vague as to the details of WHAT drove me to such a state, is that I am trying to make a point concerning the internal processes and external results of human imbalance, rather than entertain you with colorful literature such as would make the story itself: the point is that, after that ordeal, I spent a year at the other end, as overly extrovert, even to the point of being callous and rude. I spoke my mind without a second though, I kept nothing inside and as a result the festering wound slowly sealed itself shut and left a prominent scar. The thing is, the boundaries of my freedom started overstepping the ones of those around me and they were usually too afraid to tell me so: on the rare occasions they did tell me, the answer was instantaneous.
"This is who I am, take it or leave me and no hard feelings. I will NOT apologize about who I am, but at least you know what you are getting."
Funny, isn't it? I did not purposefully hurt anyone around me, although when provoked I retaliated without restrain and in equal measure. Brutal candor, no mercy, no second thoughts. However, that savage freedom alienated people, as though Lovecraft's proverbial unknown had stepped into the light and had become known. It was reactionary you see: if the psyche can be perceived as an organism, mine had to get rid of all the poison and as fundamentally nothing is lost in the Universe, that poison had to go somewhere...
In the end, that too passed (thankfully, without any serious aberrations on my part) and I returned to a middle state, balanced, a bit numb, having to learn anew the steps of human interaction, without being guided by sorrow or rage. If anything is like a bicycle, which you never forget how to ride, it's this. So what did I get for my pains? Well, a handful of scars and hard lessons, but those I took to heart and the second time around they protected me very efficiently.
It all leads to this: we come into the world bloodied and screaming and a terrifying percentage of our greatest achievements were birthed by war, strife and death. We only learn through adversity, we get stronger through getting hurt, we learn how better to fight by being defeated... as many times as it takes. However, we also learn by listening and one cannot listen unless they are willing to reciprocate the act of directed speech. You should consider yourselves nothing short of blind, with your hands tied behind your back, your ears plugged, your mouth gagged, stumbling in the darkness and thus, in the unknown void your mind fills the emptiness with monsters. However, find another in the same situation and you might help each other undo your bonds, you might be shown another's image of fear and realize you are not alone. Realization leads to knowledge and knowledge, at some point, helps you find dry wood and stones, in order to make a fire, illuminate the fading terrors and ultimately, find an exit.
In the name of absolutely anything you hold to higher authority (if anything), speak, engage in dialog, let the demons of your mind out and have them dissipate instead of gestating them to the point that they torture you. If not, we have no hope: we are condemned to be autistic, petty, to feel disillusioned where our illusions were idiotic to begin with, to remain neurotic adolescents or deranged adults unto our deaths. The first step is to be honest with oneself for if not, there is no chance in Hell anyone could be honest with those around them. Take a long, hard look into the metaphorical (or even actual, although that is not mainly the point) mirror and don't shirk from the blemishes or the imperfections: you may not like them, but they are yours, they are the balance to your good side and I assure you, balance has been, is and will ALWAYS be served somehow: it's not philosophy, or religion - it's science, proven over and over again.
The whole of our existence (of our Universe's existence in fact), is balanced on the edge of a cosmic razorblade, a thing that seems so vastly absurd to be a coincidence, that scientists ruled it a necessity. Nor is it a coincidence that my favorite Tarot card is that of Temperance (14th of the Major Arcana, although I usually get the Hierophant or the Magician): we are no different than the Universe, only vastly smaller and we should remember to act like we are, as did our ancestors. It is time to break the silence with words.
Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough will know that I have at least two very prevalent character flaws, although one tends to manifest discreetly and the other rather blatantly: the first one is pride, one of the 7 Deadly Sins and the second is curiosity, the cat's proverbial predilection, for which the feline species has been suitably equipped with 9 lives (or 7, as is the norm in Greek oral tradition).
At any rate, my curiosity usually gets me in more or less trouble (from tasting something disgusting, to getting beat up until I am blue), although there are times when I am rewarded with a new and interesting experience: mind you, that is usually something small, very rarely life-altering and often gotten over easily.
However, again as oral wisdom informs us, happiness is in the small things and the Devil is in the details, so I decided to periodically post over here something that I have tried and has left me with an impression, good or bad. Furthermore, everything I will post can be found over here in Greece, so the local readership will not have to go abroad in order to satisfy their curiosity, if so inclined. The vast majority of these things can most certainly be found abroad, so those of you not in Greece will probably have a good time laughing at what impresses the inhabitant of a country as small (and often quite backwards) as mine.
Here goes then: today's curiosity is a health soft drink by Whole Earth, which, according to the self-explaining can, is sparkling organic ginger. For those of you with a taste for Japanese food, ginger is that pink to orange (or even white) stuff that comes in very thin slices with your sushi and gives an intense feeling of eating cologne (come to think of it, this could have been another entry but oh well). This particular drink was offered to me back in March of 2008, by the owner of Jemma Press Publications, after a work meeting.
Although he was kind enough to warn me that it was rather spicy, I could not have been prepared for what I sloshed down my throat! Spicy was something of an understatement: you know how when something has too much carbonic acid (like some versions of Cola drinks) seems to burn your throat and give you hiccups? Well, this was like drinking flavored pepper extract, although it did not have so much carbonic acid as to give me hiccups (believe me, I do get them easily). The funny thing? I loved the stuff! Every time I went by the office and he had some around, I would unfailingly help myself to it. He informed me that it, along with some other counterparts from the same company, could be found at most Health Food stores.
The added bonus? It freshens your breath like you wouldn't believe. So, if you are around a Health Food Store, look it up: it might burn you but if you like spicy things, chances are you are going to love it.
...or, "what's in a name". In this particular blog's name there's lots of things: there's two old friends, one of which is fond of peculiar words and another, who sighs in exasperation at his taste in them. There's the things that make our day, the things that ruin it and everything in-between. There's quite a bit of past, a measure of present and effort for the existence of a future. There's music and there is art. There's also weirdness ranging from the purely scientific, passing through the philosophic and reaching unto the peculiarly aesthetic (or contrary thereof). Basically there's lots of rant stemming from the realities in our minds, realities that, should it please the readers, they are welcome to be subjugated by.