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

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

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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