Giorgos Lanthimos follows up Dogtooth with another fleshy tale of bodies craning to peer into the lives of others. Here, a nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast and a coach form a group of surrogates—nameless interlopers who enter the newly vacant lives of the recently deceased to help their loved ones resolve old resentments—but their methods redefine the word "selfless." They call themselves "Alps" because the Alps can't be copied but can stand in for other mountain ranges. The coach pretends to have an affair with the nurse so the blind widow can find them and dole out her long-anticipated punishment; a teenager's parents find the nurse in her room with a boy and go through the paces of throwing him out; a man takes the nurse out on a date and tells her what to say as he touches her. Naturally, this quasi-body-snatching has adverse consequences, as when the gymnast fears exclusion and tries to hang herself, or the nurse loses her surrogate position and makes a pass at her father in attempt to replace her dead mother. All of it suggests vicarious living is a way to pave over the pains of the world we share, and sharing is a reason for the pain. (The snake eats its tail.) As with Dogtooth, Lanthimos is interested in lifeless deliveries, vividly moving bodies (like gymnasts) and the eerie permeability of skin—if bodies can't transcend their physical limitations through injury, then perhaps through new identities. Finding characters who stand in for the audience is common enough, but Lanthimos bends this to invent a surrogate for the protagonist and, sometimes, the director—this is clearly about the dangers of living beyond your physical means and there are endless ways to do it. The Alps group doesn't just stand in for the lost; they momentarily and soullessly assume the dead by reliving their narratives—like that old saying about warriors consuming their fallen to absorb their strength...or young filmmakers referencing their influences. The premise is fetching and feels like a mystery, particularly as the film orchestrates its story to make the work of the Alps group seem like a kind of heist. (In a way, it is.) But where can you go after the gig is up? Back to climbing like the rest of us?
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Cast: Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed, Stavros Psyllakis, Aggeliki Papoulia
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos
Screenwriters: Giorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Producer: Athina Rachel Tsangari, Giorgos Lanthimos
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: July 13 NY