On her birthday, 11-year-old Angeliki jumps off the balcony to her death with a smile on her face. An investigation is started as to the reason for this apparent suicide, but the family keeps insisting that it was an accident.
Many of you will be familiar with the obscure and boundary pushing nature of certain Greek movies; Alps, Attenberg and Dogtooth are arguably the most notable. They test your viewing limits by tackling a certain subject matter in such a unique and head-on style that makes for uncomfortable but extremely interesting viewing. Miss Violence appeared to be no different, clearly hitting a nerve with the ever reliable Amazon consumers who apparently “love world cinema” but have listed this as “disgusting”, “shocking”, “appalling”, and on Play.com it was suggested that you should feel ashamed to own this on DVD.
Needless to say, I was intrigued, and when this Greek Tragedy popped up on the new additions in Netflix, I worked up the courage to see just how much stranger my perception of Greek cinema could get.
From the blurb you can establish that this isn’t going to be pleasant viewing, as it bluntly explains, we open the film with an 11-year-old girl killing herself on her birthday after throwing herself from her balcony. Quite why she did it, we do not know, and so forms the basis of the entire film. As the family plod along with their daily lives, rarely questioning the event that took place, it becomes clear that someone and/or something is not what it appears to be. It plays out like a murder mystery, only there was no physical push over the balcony, so who or what pushed her mentally and emotionally to take her life?
To some this film may appear mundane, but as the investigation from Social Services escalates, so too does the uncomfortable tension and sense of unease as we get closer to uncovering why this strange family are the way they are. Angeliki’s grandfather (Themis Panou) is unphased as he continues to control the family with a militaristic style of ruling, and the mother, Eleni (Eleni Roussinou) maintains a delusional yet tranquil state of being. The family continue as ‘normal’, which itself is a horrible thing to watch.
This feeling is only heightened by the claustrophobic nature of the film, shot almost all within the one apartment, as a viewer it is frustrating and agitating to watch, only making you search harder for answers to try to bring a sense of closure to this ordeal. Dulled colours, minimal conversation and faces that are intriguingly emotionless offer little to aid us in the exploration of this families increasingly visible dark side.
This is not one of those films with the ending left as ambiguous as the beginning; we are given the big reveal in a harrowing sequence of events that are sure to repulse many viewers for its shockingly natural portrayal. Whatever thoughts enter your head throughout this review, throughout this film, nothing can quite prepare you for the darkness that unravels in the latter stages of Miss Violence.
Not quite on the scale of Dogtooth or Alps, Miss Violence is still a clever albeit formulaic film. While you could argue it attempts to make a metaphorical interpretation of the socio-economic situation in Greece, it is a movie that can still stand on its own. It tackles two of the most sensitive but equally relevant subject matters out there in the modern world; suicide and abuse. It is a difficult film to watch, and appears quite predictable, but significant credit must go to Alexandros Avranas for the handling and execution of these delicate topics.
It could have been absolute mess, instead, it’s the audience that are left in a mess.
Miss Violence is available on Netflix UK