Avranos very carefully and methodically parcels out his storytelling here. To begin with, it's not even entirely clear what relation each character is to one another—it takes a little time for the viewer to realize that Father is married to Pittaki's character rather than Eleni, and it's later still that you pick up that Myrto is the aunt of the younger children, despite being only three years older than the late Angeliki. But this isn't sloppy storytelling—in fact, it's quite the opposite, the very deliberate obfuscation blurring the lines between the generations in a way that pays off later on (though not quite in the way that you might be guessing).
Almost every scene reveals some strange new piece of the puzzle, and as you inch forwards towards the horrifying secrets that reveal the reason that Angeliki took her own life, you're entirely absorbed in the narrative. As it reached the conclusion, we almost had to physically restrain ourselves from shouting at the screen, which is not a position we're in very often.
Not that it's some empty mystery, though—like most of the Greek New Wave pictures, Greece's economic collapse hangs heavy over the film, and the film wholeheartedly indicts a country that's swinging alarmingly towards the fascist Golden Path movement. It's not a pure state-of-the-nation picture though, with Avranas also discussing the rotten, corrupt heart of the family unit, and the way that society and individuals remain complacent in the face of terrible abuse.
Some of these themes have appeared in some of his countryman's films, and "Dogtooth" in particular. Visually, too, Avranas seems to owe a debt to Lanthimos in particular, with the same kind of crisp digital photography and pristine, almost artificial framing at play, and it's probably destined to be remembered in their shadow. But "Miss Violence" is a slightly different beast, less oblique than "Dogtooth" and "Alps," and crucially, even more extreme.
It might be hard to be believe, but the film pushes boundaries even further than its progenitors. Two scenes in particular late on left audiences gasping, and risk being seen as exploitative. We think that they were just about justified—asking questions about what is the breaking point, underlined by the very ending—but they may well be moments at which many audiences are left behind.
Those for whom the film isn't spoiled, however, will be left with one of the most powerful experiences we've had in a theater for a long time. On the back of a brace of impeccable performances—Panou's complex, brutish, but not unloving father figure looks to be a frontrunner for Best Actor here in Venice, while Rossinou's Stepfordish mask hiding an innocence she was never allowed to hang on to for long is particularly memorable—Avranas makes a claim to be considered among the top ranks of international filmmakers. If enough people can stomach the film, anyway... [A-]