Tag Archives: Greek

Love and bedtime stories, an education

Love is a funny kind of thing. I fill my days either apologising to my daughter for my latest misdeeds or telling her how much I love her. Her father does the same and I imagine that we’re pretty similar to new parents all over the world.

Sometimes she cries in her sleep, just one wail or sign of unhappiness and then drifts off again. The first few times she did it I felt terrible that I had introduced crying into my baby’s life where there was none before. I now see it as crying being unavoidable and at least I’m there to comfort her when she’s upset.

I feel that my love is also mixed up with worry about doing the right things, feeding her when she’s hungry, teaching her the right skills, sending her to the right schools, protecting her when she’s out of the house when I can’t be around.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself. Yesterday I was stressing that she’s already seven weeks old and I haven’t yet taught her any Greek or helped her learn any Spanish or French. Or we haven’t been swimming yet so how are we going to be the next Ironman champion? I remind myself that we’re only just getting a routine together and I should be happy that our 2.30 to 5pm naps are so far progressing well. (We’ve had two.)

I remember being so in love, a little while ago, and feeling like everything was just right with the world. Love was happiness. It was all wonderful.

Obviously it didn’t last but it’s such a nice feeling and it helps me remember that the worry and the aspirations and the stress and the fear aren’t love. The willingness to get up three or four times in the middle of the night is love. I had to change her at four in the morning yesterday and she was so sleepy but still managed to smile at me and that was love.

Dad came over to visit and once he got past his own ‘I love you’s he read to us from a Spanish edition of Asterix. We yawned and got a little dozy and it’s a shame it couldn’t have been closer to bedtime. The important thing is that we were finally learning some Spanish. Clever daddy managed to combine love with an education. Phew.

Dogtooth at the Academy Awards

The Greek movie, Dogtooth, has received its ninth nomination, among its five wins, since its release in 2009. This is no ordinary announcement however, because unlike the Montréal Festival of New Cinema or the Mar del Plata Film Festival, we know that the whole world will be watching when the results are announced for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards on 27 February.

This is quite an accolade for a movie which has received a varied selection of opinions ranging from ‘a brilliant Greek black comedy’ (Guardian), to ‘special and troubling’ (Time Out), ‘weird’ and ‘as much an exercise in perversity as an examination of it’ (NYT).

Influences for Dogtooth come from director Giorgos Lanthimos, who also wrote the screenplay with Efthimis Filippou, and the look and feel are from the cinematography of Thimios Bakatakis which are praised by the NYT for ‘gauzy and diffuse’ light which helps ‘to produce an atmosphere that is insistently and not always unpleasantly dreamlike’.

Read the Ephemeral Digest review at http://www.ephemeraldigest.co.uk/2010/04/dogtooth-a-reflection-2/

Mary Tsoni in Dogtooth. Picture by Kino International.

Dogtooth, a reflection

A couple of warnings about Dogtooth, stay until the end and don’t get lost in the content. The synopsis describes it as a film about a dysfunctional family where the parents keep the children away from outside influence in a utopian setting. A slow breakdown of this reality ensues when the father brings in someone to satisfy his son’s sexual needs.

This Greek movie is a powerful examination (and I do mean slammed against the wall and then struggle to catch your breath kind of powerful) of relationships and what holds people together.

A man with little power at work apart from listening to his boss talk about home designs and ordering his secretary to water the Yukka more regularly becomes a God like presence in his own home. There is an emotionless stunted existence of the type seen on Big Brother shows where there is nothing for the three children to do apart from interact with each other.

In an opening reminiscent of Orwell’s clock striking 13, the beginning shows three young adults sitting around a bathroom listening to instructional tapes that provide different meanings for ordinary words. A “telephone” means a salt cellar, an “excursion” is a durable flooring material, a “motorway” is a very strong wind.

There was a general laugh in the cinema but the consistent alternate reality becomes sinister very quickly. Insidious little acts are accepted as normal and the easy ability to manipulate their children turns these ordinary people into monsters. The children become childlike, muted, characters that exist not only for our entertainment but also for their parents. The latter would say it was for their own good but the former don’t get to choose.

Dogtooth takes its name from the front canine tooth said to drop out when a person is ready to leave home and face the world. The false promise by the adults to the vulnerable younger people keeps them going while the fear of the outside world stops them escaping.

Greece’s experience of an authoritarian force is not more than a generation past with the military junta being overthrown in 1974 and 400 years of occupation ending at the beginning of the last century.

This is a tale of morality which explores the degradation of humanity when people are constrained into acting only how others would like them to act. Strip away the love and emotion that makes people expand as individuals, take away the beauty and support that makes them determined to soar and what do you get?

You may fulfil one of the basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is security but you establish none of the beauty, the freedom, the happiness that arise from the power to determine your own future.

Strip out love and choice from physical relationships and you get pornography and much of the movie reflects back the very basic pleasure that it all comes down to when there’s nothing left.

After centuries of physical oppression and years to come of financial constraints and restrictions, there are waves of dissent that are becoming even more prevalent than usual in Greece. The Greek flag is made of a white cross on a blue background alongside five blue stripes and four white ones. The stripes represent the nine syllables that make up the phrase ‘freedom or death’ (e-leu-the-ri-a i tha-na-tos) and it’s this constant interplay between the two extremes in which Greece shows where its focus lies. Change has to come, and the more restrictive the regime, the more brutal the attempt to escape whether that be physical, financial or emotional. Watch the movie until the end. Then shake yourself, walk out of the cinema and see how tightly you hold on to your loved ones.

Dogtooth is screening at the Watershed in Bristol until May 6.