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

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood February 12, 2014 at 11:44AM

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’.
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'At Home'
'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.

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, Berlin International Film Festival, At Home


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.