Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari
Running time: 95 minutes
I was initially drawn to Attenberg as I was curious how it would reflect on to the challenges that we are currently facing in this country. It’s a Greek movie that introduces us to an architect, Spyros, as he is dying of cancer. His daughter Marina continues to live in the failed concrete experiment that her father conceptualised in the ’60s, yet never quite lived up to his initial dream. We find them in a half-rural, half-built landscape, and though the theme of a stalled construction is certainly present, it is more Marina’s very concentrated sexual awakening that emerges as the dominant theme.
The title of the movie stems from Marina’s fascination with David Attenborough, and not only does she watch his documentaries, but she also mimics the actions of the animals, leaping about with her father in a few scenes of curious intimacy. The quirky dances that she does with her best friend Bella have a similarly primal quality, and punctuate scenes in the movie to provide more of a visual diversion, rather than anything else. As she explores her sexuality with Bella, she is studied in her attempts to get to grips with the various stages of sexual contact. Her awkward steps towards intimacy pepper the movie with smatterings of comic relief.
I had expected a meditative take on our relationship with buildings and the human consequences of a utopia that fails to materialise, but remains mockingly half-built. Instead, this was a quirky but insubstantial chronicle of a young woman encountering some major milestones in her life. A clumsy monologue by Spyros, as he wearily contemplates a society that moved “from sheperds to bulldozers” with no industrial revolution in between, provided a fleeting moment with which to draw parallels with our own situation. Ultimately, Attenberg is not something that will satisfy any need for art to provide us with a reflection on real life.