Alps: A sinister study of grief and identity
Alps is a slow-burning, bleak film about a company of strange people who, for a price, will fill the place of the recently deceased for grieving relatives. They’ll act out memories, reciting lines and going through all (and we mean all) the motions on demand.
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos makes unsettling use of camera focus, odd framings and an oppressive emphasis on mundane sounds in place of any score, to alert the senses that all is not as it seems as we watch these people interact with each other deliberately and expressionlessly.
The early narrative is disjointed, pieces of a jigsaw shaken out of the box, and as we try to piece them together something sinister bubbles menacingly underneath. The occasional glimpse of something out of place or a sudden, short burst of violence here and there very slowly crescendos as we realise what’s going on, and eventually it becomes something altogether more unhinged.
There are so many unanswered questions – how these people came to be part of this bizarre and gruesome profession, what their own circumstances are, and even whether they are substitutes for each other.
It finishes as abruptly as it begins, leaving us none the wiser as to how this company came to be or what happens next – the job of the film is to explore a “what if”, presenting us with a scenario that we can’t rationalise, only watch as it plays out and suggest consequences.
It’s a cold and pretty brutal watch, hardly enjoyable, but provokes thoughts about the lengths people will go to in order to assuage grief, and how fragile a grip we hold on identity.
Alps is released nationwide on 9th November 2012.
Watch the trailer for Alps here: