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BERLINALE SPECIAL COMPETITION


Ger-Gr. 2012. 82mins Director/cinematography Spiros Stathoulopoulos Production company Essential Filmproduktion International sales The Coproduction Office, www. coproductionoffice.eu Producers Philippe Bober, Susanne Marian Screenplay Spiros Stathoulopoulos, Asmakis ‘Alfa’ Pagidas Editor George Cragg Production designer Aristotelis Karananos, Alexandra Siafkou Animation supervisor Frank Govaere Main cast Theo Alexander, Tamila Kouliev


Meteora REVIEWED BY FIONNUALA HALLIGAN


Greek-Colombian director Spiros Stathoulopoulos renounces the single-take Glidecam paciness of his hostage drama PVC-1 for the vertiginously forbidding 14th century Greek Orthodox monasteries of Meteora in a highly aestheticised contemplation of religious devotion and its earthly bounds. Driven by the twin visual motors of the mountains them-


selves and the iconography that dominates their interiors, Stathoulopoulos contrasts the spiritual life in the skies against the earthly routine in the village below. Animation sequences based on — and breathing life into — Byzantine iconography underscore the silently soulful dilemma facing Meteora’s hand- some Orthodox monk (True Blood’s Theo Alexander) and nun (Russian-born actress Tamila Koulieva). Reached at some points by a hand-cranked pulley system,


Meteora’s monasteries are difficult to access, and many viewers will find this film equally challenging. Reception should be polarised, with some responding to Stathoulopoulos’ sumptu- ous imagery and heavily emphasised aesthetics, and others finding it too remote and airless. Two sexually charged sequences breathe some fire into the


film, but within the framework of testing the bonds of religious devotion against the carnal urges of physical life, Stathoulopou- los’ film adds very little to the canon. It is the setting — both religious and physical — and art of Meteora that sets it apart. Greek-born, Stathoulopoulos moved to South America as a


child but here trains his camera on the scorching plains of cen- tral Greece and the country’s Orthodox heritage. Built in an attempt by the monks to escape Ottoman pirates, the six monas- teries which rise out of the sandstone pillars are today a UNESCO world heritage site, also filled with hermits’ caves which are depicted here. Stathoulopoulos’ camera tackles them from a still position,


switching to the plains below in continual long-shots, but never moving. Working with available light inside the monastery to replicate the colours and shapes of the iconography, he achieves some extraordinary moments, broken up with perhaps exces- sive use of the animation device — though it does provide some visual relief from the austerity of the towering rock face. Choral, medieval chanting dominates a sparse soundtrack


broken up only by ritual hammering and the odd tolling bell. Production design is an extraordinary feat, and costume designer Alexandra Siafkou provides her director with ample black habits and wimples to contrast against the natural background.


SCREEN SCORE ★★★ February 13, 2012 Screen International at the Berlinale 15 n


UK-Ger-Fr. 2012. 93mins Director Barnaby Southcombe Production companies Embargo Films, Riva Film, Arsam International International sales Global Screen, info@ globalscreen.de Producers Felix Vossen, Christopher Simon, Michael Eckelt, Ilann Girard Screenplay Barnaby Southcombe, from the novel by Elsa Lewin Cinematography Ben Smithard Editor Peter Boyle Production designer Tom Burton Music K.I.D., Richard Hawley Main cast Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Eddie Marsan, Jodhi May, Hayley Atwell, Ralph Brown, Max Deacon


I, Anna REVIEWED BY JONATHAN ROMNEY


Not so much noir as plain murky, I, Anna is a psychological drama that boasts lashings of moody atmospherics hiding a slim emotional core. The film’s primary selling point is the ever- watchable Charlotte Rampling as we have not seen her in a while — at least, not since Francois Ozon’s Under The Sand. Instead of the scary, hard-boiled misanthropes she has played of late — in films by Todd Solondz, Laurent Cantet et al — here is Rampling as a vulnerable and not terribly confident woman in a crisis. But debut writer-director Barnaby Southcombe — who is


also Rampling’s son — never really knits the complexities of lead character Anna into a plausible narrative, generally relying on moody urban backdrops, and some stylish trimmings such as Richard Hawley’s downbeat songs, to pick up the slack. The pairing of Rampling and Gabriel Byrne could make it a moder- ate pull for mature genre-friendly viewers. The film’s initial hook is that it looks at the perils of modern


dating for the older woman. Anna (Rampling) is a divorced woman living in London with her daughter Emmy (Atwell) and small grand-daughter Chiara. Steeling herself to re-enter the dating market, Anna attends a speed-meet soirée where she hits it off with a smooth-talking rough diamond, George (Brown). Later, George is found dead and circumstances seem to imply his son Stevie (Deacon), in trouble over a drug debt. First on the crime scene is insomniac police inspector Bernie


Reid (Byrne), cracking up over his own divorce. Seeing Anna leave the building, he finds her catching his imagination — pos- sibly because he senses a lonely kindred spirit, possibly because Rampling’s legs still look knockout in a femme fatale’s trench- coat. Failing to connect her with the case he is investigating, this most erratic of movie cops finds himself virtually stalking Anna, before hooking up with her romantically. But the film falls down both on narrative, the love-death


nexus never quite working out satisfactorily in investigative terms, and in characterisation. Southcombe simply does not seem to have a keen eye for performance. The actress’ harder edges are here, and she is magnetic as


ever when she shows Anna on the edge of breakdown, but is less convincing when she gives her a mischievous, even impish glimmer that hints at the character’s troubled self-delusion. Best among the cast are Eddie Marsan, effortlessly good value as ever in a no-nonsense sidekick cop role, and veteran actress Honor Blackman whose cameo shows she can still vamp it up. A final-act twist introduces a hard-to-swallow psychological


backstory that the film has seeded in narrative hints but cer- tainly has not earned emotionally.


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