Confusion and Deadlock

in 53rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival

by Nikolaos Aletras

A 23-year-old young man living in modern Athens feels that hunger is overpowering him with every moment that passes. When he’s not eating, he’s trying to satisfy his hunger by stealing some of the food of his favourite canary. However, he realizes that what he’s doing is wrong and if he continues this way, the canary will die of starvation in a short time…

Ektoras Lygizos’ film ”Boy Eating the Bird’s Food” (”To agori troei to fagito tou pouliou”) has nothing to do with hunger itself. Hunger is such a catalyst that Lygizos grabs the opportunity to comment on the confusion prevailing in the majority of Greek society today. The film is full of contrasts from the outset. One would expect that a story with a hungry man as a hero would be accompanied by shots expressing his inability to cope with everyday needs. By contrast, the film is full of energy and constant movement. The camera constantly moves along, nearly suffocating the young protagonist and accentuating his stress and confusion more and more, creating in this way astonishing scenes of technical perfection. The work done by the cameraman with the steadiness that characterizes his handling of the camera is amazing, since it almost “touches” the actor Yannis Papadopoulos as it comes close to him. Also, the choice to not use a music soundtrack works very well.

However, the film does not give answers to the viewers’ main questions, such as: “Who is the main character?” or  “Does the hero have psychological problems, or has something else happened that has led him into this situation?” Nor does it answer: “Where does he come from?” or “Why doesn’t he ask his parents for help?” or “Why is he unemployed when he obviously has the ability to find a job?”. Confusion and contradictions, at first, arouse a feeling that the great weakness in the film is the fact that it has a script that doesn’t give answers to inevitable questions raised by the audience.

No. In fact, Lygizos doesn’t give answers to these questions. What interests him is the present psychological state of the hero, which is captured by Lygizos with very strong scenes such as one with masturbation and the young man eating his own sperm. Lygizos isn’t interested in before nor why. These details seem to become irrelevant.

Allegorically, the state of the young man in the film resembles the one Greeks are experiencing during this period of economic crisis. The country’s economic problems seem to affect mostly young people who in previous years of false prosperity had a high standard of living. Most of them are highly educated (the young hero of the film seems to have attended high-level classes in music) and were intended by their families and the social environment to continue living with this same-as-always high living standard. They were destined to succeed! However, the unexpected financial crisis has led them to lose many of their earlier privileges. The truth is that, in fact, they are not impoverished, though they feel that way. Yet, the fear of a possible bankruptcy and irreversible famine as a result of this has made Greeks feel impoverished already.

The unorthodox and uncontrollable, instinctive – but also consistent and continuous – way in which Lygizos develops the story of the hungry young man creates the conditions for this allegorical approach of the film. The interpretation of the young protagonist, as well as the way of filming, convey rage and anger – emotions that will eventually occur. But – and this is the central message of the film – no one will pay attention. Why? There is no answer. There is only confusion, indifference, and personal and social deadlock, all of which are an irresistible and sad cocktail.

Edited by Carmen Gray