Berlin Review: 'At Home' a Quiet Manifesto with Political Anger Loud and Clear

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by John Anderson
February 12, 2014 11:44 AM
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'At Home'

The Greek Weird Wave crashed onto the shores of Berlin this week, carrying Athanasios Karanikolas’ “At Home,” a film that owes a larger stylistic debt to Michaelangelo Antonioni than it does the other post-financial-debacle movies that have been arriving like belts of ouzo courtesy of an under-financed, over-stressed Greek film community. You get the sense that people there are pissed off. And there aren't many films more pissed-off than Karanikolas’.

Karanikolas’ eye is coldly observant of the life of the people occupying his country’s upper reaches, both economically and geographically -- the family at the film’s center live in a home of  glass, antiseptic surfaces, stables and a breathtaking view of the sea. The hypocrisy is pretty breathtaking too. Although rich in detail, “At Home” makes no sweeping statements, either in text or imagery; Karanikolas does a very clinical dissection of entitlement and privilege.

The housemaid, Nadja (Maria Kallimani), a Georgian immigrant, has been working for Evi, Stefanos and Iris (Marissa Triantafyllidou, Alexandros Logothetis and Zoi Asimaki) since the now-adolescent Iris was a baby. Nadja is like a member of the family, Evi is fond of saying; Iris regards her as a mother.

But now that Nadja is sick, Stefanos wants to let her go (that Nadja is a “family member” without health care is a not-so-subtly made point). “I can’t have a sick person in my home,” Stefanos says -- not even one who has virtually made that home, and reared his child.

The director might have easily made Nadja a Greek -- why he doesn’t is a bit of a mystery, given that inequalities in Greek society are no less than are in say, America. But her status is made more tenuous given her foreign birth, and the tenuous status of workers everywhere seems to be director Karanikolas’ point. While the performances are all very solid, the star of the movie is the camera -- which mostly observes and reflects, and assesses, a world of poisoned morality, and rampant inequality. It’s a very quiet manifesto, but its political points come through loud and clear.

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