This was a Greek film that I initially had a hard time getting into but the more it went along, the more I liked it. The film is about a young girl in her early twenties named Marina who when the film begins is basically asexual. She has never had a boyfriend, has never been kissed, let alone had intercourse, but nor does she have any interest in it. Her best friend Bella is almost the opposite, sleeping with anyone she gets the chance to. Marina lives alone with her father (her mother is deceased) and the two have a great relationship. In fact this is part of the problem as Marina would prefer to spend time watching David Attenborough documentaries with her dad (and act them out) instead of spending time with people of her own age, and of the opposite sex.
However Marina’s father is currently in the fight of his life as he undergoes treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer. As the cancer continues to spread through his body and the likelihood of his surviving lessens by the day, he begins to worry about his daughter and how she will survive once he is gone. He begins to nudge her in the direction of spending time with other people and with people from the other sex. Marina ends up meeting a nice guy and she finally begins to awaken sexually. This awakening brings a freshness and vitality to her life, while at the same time, her father is losing his battle to keep his.
What holds this film together and makes it work is the relationship between father and daughter. It is very touching and the two leads, Ariane Labed and Giorgos Lanthimos, are very convincing throughout. Labed is especially strong and her character Marina is someone who you enjoy being in the company of, as she grows into adulthood in earnest. Amazingly I have just learnt that Labed is not fluent in Greek at all, and had to learn all of her lines phonetically. This makes her performance all the more special because just learning the lines and performing them naturally is a feat in itself, but to also infuse them with complex emotions is just stunning.
As everyone knows I am a visually orientated person when it comes to film but in regards to “Attenberg” there is almost no style at all to it. In fact, you could almost call the film ugly. A strange thing included in the film is that between most scenes we get a small choreographed walk / dance by the two girls as they travel up the same path each time. It is very odd because to my eyes, it serves no real purpose, but I got to like it watching the girls in sync.
Overall “Attenberg” is a small film and a modest achievement. The story itself is its strong point and I believe it is one worth watching. It is a heartfelt and emotional look at sexual awakening while coming to terms with the death of a parent. Another positive with the film is that it never falls into the trap of sentimentality. Incidentally if you are wondering what the title means, it comes from the way Bella mispronounces David Attenborough’s name.