They already called it the “Greek New Wave”, “Greek Weird Wave” or even “Greek Absurdism”; it more realistically is a bunch of movies coming from the Hellenic peninsula sharing certain thematic traits. It is not the intent of this article to dispute whether Ektoras Lygizos’ film Boy Eating the Bird’s Food (which closed the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Official Competition) is part or not of the aforementioned trend. “I understand that critics are trying to define and name tendencies” Lygizos concedes, “but what I like most about the films coming out of Greece recently is that each one of us is forming his/her own unique voice and style.” But regardless of what one’s own critical position towards these films might be, there are recurring aspects amongst several films worthy of consideration: the loss of logical concatenation, a spastic physicality, convulsive sexuality, sparse and marred relationships, are some amongst the meaningful excrescences characterizing recent Greek cinema. That the country which gave birth to logics, whose Aristotelian model remained pretty much valid and unchallenged until the 20th century, is now churning out works of feverish unreason represent an interesting fact. Whether we are about to be gushed out by a Greek seaquake or not is a matter of secondary importance, even because this film feels more like optical thalassemia.
Lygizos’ film, it must be said, veers away from the outward oddity of his compatriots’ films (Dogtooth, L, Alpis, Attenberg) to penetrate the disturbed intimacy of a young Greek man stripped of any social role and thus reduced to his most basic bio(il)logical functions. The quest for food, to feed himself and his yellow canary, is the sole stream of life reanimating his existential anaemia made of compulsive and solipsistic gestures. Obsessively shadowing the main character while negating any view of the surrounding world, the director’s camera performs a psychosomatic inspection of the young futureless man. “That is partly why the film is without a plot” the director points out when asked why the audience never sees the world surrounding the character, “when you have no prospects you cannot build anything, you lack confidence and have no hopes”.
Deprived of any expectation, project or plan our hero is caught in a downward spiral where even the search for food seems to be a compulsive instinct whose purpose is now lost. The remnants of social life are as feeble as his attempts to give his existence a meaning, a direction. Even the attraction for a girl gets tangled in an aimless chase with no drives, emotional, sexual or otherwise. Is this a political film detailing the effects the economic crisis is having on Greek youth? “Of course it is” Lygizos confirms, “but it is more a behavioural report on the affective and psychological damages that the crisis caused: the total lack of hope”.
The film conveys the tangible feeling of mental isolation induced by a sense of inadequacy and uselessness triggered by the exclusion from the cycle of capitalist accumulation. The impossibility of giving meaning to human life outside the bestiality of production and consumption leaves us with this desolate and mute cry of a film. Where there once was a community, now there is a human desert; where there was passion, a livid emotional void reigns undisputed. It would be easier and more reassuring to think of this individualist and fragile film as “generational” or maybe “national”, but its discomforting denial of any prospect epitomizes the collapse of certainty the vast majority of (western) youths are facing. The quiet and fastidious desperation of this film is the clear symptom of a collective malaise, colourful singing birds notwithstanding.
After having blindly believed in the illusory promises of capitalist democracy and having greedily swallowed the poison of consumerism we are now left with no answers as to what a post-capitalist civilization would look like.
Celluloid Liberation Front is a multi-use(r) name, an “open reputation” informally adopted and shared by a desiring multitude of insurgent cinephiles, transmedial terrorists, aesthetic dynamyters and random deviants. For reasons that remain unknown, the name was borrowed from a collective of anti-imperialist blind filmmakers from the Cayman Islands. Twitter feed here.