In 2009 greek director Giorgos Lanthimos put his mark on the world of cinema with Dogtooth, one of the blackest and most fascinating comedies (if it can even be called a comedy) in recent memory. He’s now returned with his third film, Alps. Alps is a movie not easily described, but it tells the tale of a small group of people who start substituting for recently deceased people to help their loved ones with the grief and the loss.
While Alps is a funny, original and stylishly directed it’s a bit of a letdown after Dogtooth. It feels a little bit like more of the same, as it’s not as shocking or bracing as the previous effort. It’s a slight step backwards in terms of maturity and doesn’t leave with quite as much food for thought.
There’s still a lot to like here. Did we mention it’s funny? The premise, truth to be said, is quite absurd and not very plausible. How can this help with the grief? But this is not a movie that’s concerned with realism. For one thing the acting is very stylised, as demonstrated by the characters often talking in a monotone and without emotion. The humor is very deadpan and overall it’s a very drab and cold movie. The visual style complements the content, there are no bright colors and everything is photographed in a very grey and dull manner. Much of it also filmed in close-up, giving a sense of claustrophobia, and in many scenes containing important dialogue the people talking are often obscured, out of focus or even outside of the frame.
But overall the film leaves you with a certain feeling of emptiness, it’s not really certain what it’s trying to say and it not as powerful as it ought to be. It also kind of peters out in the final section, there’s really not much of a plot in this movie and there the problem lies. It remains interesting throughout and often very funny but it doesn’t leave enough behind after it’s over.
Final verdict: A funny, stylish, original black comedy that, unfortunately, still feels somewhat empty. The message is unclear and the story could have been stronger. An acceptable but mildly disappointing followup to Dogtooth.