Exotica, Erotica, Etc
20th September 7200 2.44pm at Rich Mix
13th October 2015 6.45pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
Exotica, Erotica, Etc is appropriately titled. The images are stunning, exotic, and demonstrate the enormity of Earth. A former erogenous prostitute (Sandy) speaks of her nostalgic feelings for the past, and a bunch of sailors jive onboard a large cargo ship to the sounds of Abba’s Dancing Queen. The elements feel dislocated and it can be a struggle to engage with, but this is the language of the sea and clearly an intention of Greek director Evangelica Kranioti’s tonally tempered piece.
“When I am sad, I look at the sea and it fills me up,” Sandy is full of ideas about her past, literally and metaphorically. Nothing is clear in this documentary other than the words that are spoken. It is an essay on loss that is greatly symbolised by the unforgiving expanse of the sea and the infinity of the night sky. The cinematography is remarkable and the best shots include the ship crashing through ice caps and being lit by the rising sun. The sailors say nothing, they just stand in-line as if witnesses to a divine event: the passing of time and the ocean waves.
Kranioti is trying to explore many overarching themes that are too cosmic to be convincingly perceived here. Through Sandy, the film confronts memories, dreams, the nature of sex, nationality, gender, religion, death, all of which raise interesting questions, but something is very amiss. There is not much work done to ground the comments that are made, the story is too thin and prescribed only by this mysterious lady who seems to be nearing a nervous breakdown over her imposing desires. The sadness on Sandy’s face is prevalent and greatly observed, but the film needs to take such moments further and develop its reimagining’s to a fuller extent to have any lasting impact.
In theory, the film also verifies another of these poetical Odyssey retellings: the mythical journey prevalent and the widowed Penelope embodied as the wounded Sandy. There is a void in such storytelling and the void is perhaps the subject of this film but, unfortunately, that concept is rendered too slender or, in the humblest of methods, too clever for cinema. It is indeed “as though the soul abandoned the body” of this work.
Exotica, Erotica, Etc does not have a UK release date yet. This is part of the Journey competition in the 59th London Film Festival.
Watch an excerpt for Exotica, Erotica, Etc here: