“A national cinema that Venice continues to promote more than its rivals on the festival scene is Greece,” writes Guy Lodge in a post-awards overview of the festival at In Contention. Among the many surprises the jury led by Bernardo Bertolucci sprang Saturday night was the awarding of both best director (Alexandros Avranas) and best actor (Themis Panou) prizes to Miss Violence. “Cannes may have got the ball rolling when Yorgos Lanthimos‘s Dogtooth won Un Certain Regard in 2009,” writes Guy, “but it’s Venice that has sustained the mini-revival since, adventurously placing Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg (2010) and Lanthimos’s follow-up Alps (2011) in Competition, where they both won awards.” And Miss Violence is “self-evidently influenced by Lathimos’s and Tsangari’s deadpan extremism… I found the film’s transgressions a little too calculated (and, in some cases, blatantly telegraphed) to be truly shocking, and the film isn’t as sophisticated an exercise an tone as the more ironic Dogtooth, to which it’s obviously in thrall—but its craft is immaculate. (I reviewed the film for Variety here.)”
How Greek is it? “The tell-tale signs are legion,” writes David Jenkins at Little White Lies, “from the ironic pastel furnishings which look like they’ve been immaculately preserved from a 1960s suburb, the initial presentation of an almost satirically affectionate nuclear family, and an early, jolting bout of extreme violence…. Indeed, one might feel that it’s tough to judge Avranas’s film on its own merits as it feels so thematically beholden to the confrontational project of the [Greek New Wave] as a whole that it errs on the derivative. Had this film been made before Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, then it would have possessed that thrilling, outré edge which made that film so special.”
“The film opens with a stunning scene, as a family celebrate the 11th birthday of Angeliki (Chloe Bolota),” writes Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist. “As they eat cake and dance, the birthday girl walks onto the balcony, stares down the lens, smiles to herself, and jumps over the railings, the camera then panning down to reveal her dead on the ground below. The rest of the family—the patriarch (Themis Panou), his wife (Reni Pittaki), Angeliki’s mother Eleni (Eleni Rossinou), eldest child Myrto (Sissy Toumasi), son Filippos (Konstantinos Athanasiades) and youngest Alkmini (Kalliopi Zontanou)—are devastated. But it soon becomes clear that something is very wrong in the family. Eleni walks through life as though heavily sedated, a desperate smile on her face. Father (the only name he’s ever given) rules the house with an arcane series of rituals and punishments. And Eleni is pregnant, but according to the others, won’t say who the father is.”
“Though the supposedly shocking revelations in the latter reels aren’t unexpected or even startling, it’s the poker-faced lead-up to these revelations that’s chilling in hindsight,” finds the Hollywood Reporter‘s Boyd van Hoeij.
For Screen‘s Lee Marshall, this is “one of those films you wish you could erase from your mental hard disk after the screening… Themis Panou is chillingly perfect as a man who can act the mild, concerned family patriarch when talking to headmistress or social services but who rules his family with a carefully dosed regime of treats and threats, privileges and punishments. Society at large is seen as largely complicit in this: Avranas paints a picture of a washed-up Greek city (actually Athens) where men and morals are both bankrupt, where young girls are pimped out for a few euros, and those charged with protecting the vulnerable are themselves blinkered by the rulebooks they follow.”
“Money is the other heart of evil of this story,” agrees Domenico La Porta, writing for Cineuropa. “Avranas is a sadistic director who enjoys grabbing his audience’s balls, and not necessarily playing fair,” declares Pierre Hombrebueno at Twitch. For Sight & Sound editor Nick James, “the boon here is the recognition of a film that could not have been better acted and constructed to achieve its grim intensity.”
Having won those awards in Venice, Miss Violence will now be screening in the City to City program in Toronto.
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