Let’s take a look at another Yorgos Lanthimos film.
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the few directors that is interesting enough to warrant watching everything they do. His style is a mixture of humor, tragedy, and surrealism. On top of all this we also have really really weird stories that are almost wholly unique.
In Alps, we follow people who start a business impersonating the recently deceased to help people grieve. Of course, the film does a bit more than this. The first thing people will notice about Lanthimos’ works is the extremely odd dialogue. People speak as though there is no filter—nothing seems to be concerned with social norms, peoples’ feelings, or anything of that sort. This style has been in all of his films, and I love it. An injured woman speaks with a paramedic, her names is Mary, but he says he would rather call her Maria before telling her she will likely die. The bluntness and indifference of the dialogue is off putting, but oddly captivating.
The dialogue is only one of the odd features of the film. Strange camera angles, long shots, and frequent close-ups serve to disorient and hypnotize—or irritate. I haven’t met anyone who thinks Lanthimos is okay—he is either loved or hated. He is a fun one to watch with groups because half will be captivating and the other half will be completely confused.
We have several moments that are beautifully sad as we watch the Alps reenact important moments with people. Sometimes they are simple, like reading a magazine to a grandparent, or taking a walk on the beach. These small moments help the film dig into the concepts of death and loss.
We also see tender moments of love. A nurse playing tennis with the injured patient, and simply talking. However, there is a sinister edge as the nurse is also preparing to mimic the player once she dies. Identity becomes jumbled here, and it makes us wonder how much of our relations are just acts. Could someone stand in for the most important people in your life? Would you take an imitation, even a poor one?
The ideas within this movie are excellent. I think this is one of the more thought provoking plots I have seen in a while. The execution isn’t perfect. Lanthimos’ style often does well to keep things shrouded in mystery, but if someone didn’t know the overall plot they would be very confused. The first third of the film needs a bit more to fully work. We also have an issue with extremely poor lighting in numerous scenes. Simple dinners or tea times are shrouded in blackness, and this doesn’t add to the atmosphere, but instead distracts from what is happening. It seems the entire film was naturally lit, and there are several moments where it isn’t enough.
The moments when we see the Alps imitating the recently deceased are the most powerful. There is something almost perverse about the idea of pretending, but it is also understandable. Here is when the movie works the best.
Unfortunately, we end up spending more time focusing on the Alps’ members rather than the clients. I think this was a mistake. Our focus becomes more on the ideas of identity and losing oneself in an imitation rather than how the imitations fulfill a need for a grieving individual or family. There are interesting aspects to both sides, but the film focuses on the lesser or the two. Honestly, the film would have been better if the Alps’ characters weren’t the focus.
The film is sometimes slow, but never boring. It might be Lanthimos’ weakest film, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. I enjoyed it overall, but this one is certainly for hardline fans.