Europe: Political and Social System Against Humans

in 30th Panorama of European Cinema, Athens

by Christos Skyllakos

A young couple fails to keep its love alive. Love that initially united them. Everyday life and routine is against them. The male is a first aid bearer and the female is a doctor. They got so many cases in different parts of the city and they don’t have the time to look after all of them. However, they owe to help people as they swear and as they feel is right. As their profession obliges. It’s not a profession after all. Primarily it’s a social service to the people. But the working conditions -and the constant threat of being fired-, do not allow us to think it like this. Work alienates the workers on a system that puts money above people. This is well known. And when public health has been privatized in modern-day Russia and profit plays the key role, who gives a damn about who lives and who dies? Maybe only the health workers who see the patients themselves. Our protagonists. In this situation, Oleg and Katya do not have time for anything else: to love, to talk to each other, to feel each other, to get to know each other. Their story is so truly vital and for this so truly painful.

This story of Boris Khlebnikov’s Arrhythmia (the movie that had been awarded by the FIPRESCI Jury) emphasizes the following aesthetical and narrative issue: cinema has the power to narrate as a unity the general social issues with that of the individual. At the same time, it can create the political (and oppressive) frame where it puts people within it. Without stylism but with deep and harsh realism, such realism that makes the viewer a part of the reality –because it’s a reality that everyone knows and understands, collectively and personally- this type of cinema proves that it’s an art form that shows its universal value. This is exactly what the Russian filmmakers continue to do. They continue to create high-level dramas in the best tradition of their well-known entire film school. They masterfully handle the script, the directing of the actors and the acting itself, the mise-en-scene, the dramaturgical dynamics, and a political stance. No viewer can resist these.

The official competition’s 9 movies program covered a wide range of European cinema highlighting the different perspectives of filmmakers but on a common geographical, political and social frame that are identical all over Europe. France, Italy, Ireland, Russia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus. Films from different countries, although they may seem to have their own characteristics -based on their particular growth rates and consequently the living standards of their people- have a common place of understanding and interpretation of the common social situation. Of course, there are different narrative forms. Movies based on symbolism or realism. Movies are much more conventional than even surrealistic. Whatever the form was, they always produced the same content: emphasizing the brutal social reality independently of the country that we speak of.

This is exactly what we saw in the Greek movie “Lines” which approaches the crisis in a collection of short stories form. The Italian “Una famiglia” raises the issue of child trafficking in the European Union. The French “Corporate” highlights painfully and cruelly naturalistic working conditions in today’s business as well as the hierarchy that breaks down solidarity. While filmmakers tend to follow social issues and follow them from a distance as well, at the same time they obviously express reality as it is. The so-called signs of the times. After all, Athens Panorama helped us to get to know the tendency of the collective thoughts of the artists on a present-day pan-European level.

Present-day cinema continues to talk about politics. In a different way than in the past. It is trying to consider and criticize issues like unemployment, alienation, and disintegration of human values, but it is still far from being polemical. It’s difficult for it to react, socially as well as aesthetically, to the dominant system. But we evaluate it and we express this opinion according to the historical experience of the medium and the examples we have from the past. However, the medium still seems relentless in trying to find authenticity, though without succeeding absolutely. For sure, it seeks to communicate with the audience, the audience that shows equivalent interest in approaching the complexity and the multilevel of the cinematic narration and stories. This is, after all, what ultimately counts in a work of art. Communication with the present-day audience and their equivalent needs. This is what the FIPRESCI award-winning film of the festival clearly teaches us.

Christos Skyllakos