A car accident is the catalyst for the uncovering of difficult truths in this atmospheric Greek drama


Source: Berlinale


Dir: Yorgos Zois. Greece, Bulgaria, USA. 2024. 99mins

There is an oppressive silence between Katerina (Angeliki Papoulia) and Yannis (Vangelis Mourikis) as, mute with trepidation, they drive to an out-of-season Greek holiday resort. Yannis has been called to identify a body pulled from a car crash; meanwhile, with a growing sense of unease, Katerina must first discover the identity of the deceased, and then piece together the circumstances of the death. Guidance in the matter comes from the mismatched collection of strangers she meets in uncanny late-night visits to a flyblown beach bar called Arcadia.

An intriguing metaphysical fancy 

The second feature from Yorgos Zois is an intriguing metaphysical fancy based on the idea that the emotional ties that bind us to key people – love, guilt, regret or even simmering, unquenchable hatred – are stronger than life itself. It’s an eerie enigma of a film that reveals its secrets with a satisfying slow build. It is, however, rather let down by a cursory ending.

Zois cut his teeth with a series of acclaimed short films including Casus Belli and Out Of Frame, while his 2015 feature debut Interruption premiered in Venice Horizons. The extensive festival play of Zois’ previous works should mean that this will be a title of considerable interest for programmers, particularly those events that have already supported his work. With its atmospheric visuals, plus its singular vision of the afterlife (there are moments that resemble the kind of grubby provincial sex club that might feature in an Ulrich Seidl film), the film could find a home with a bespoke streaming platform or adventurous arthouse distributor. A key reference point, both tonally and thematically, will be David Lowery’s A Ghost Story although, without the hook of a star cast, this is likely to be a more challenging marketing proposition.

In Greek mythology, Arcadia is an earthly paradise, a blissful bucolic heaven on earth. Here, however, it is a wood-lined shack that looks like the interior of a mouldering sauna. The tables are covered in defeated vinyl tablecloths, the kind your flesh instantly sticks to if you have the misfortune to make physical contact with it. And there’s a lot of flesh on show in Arcadia when Katerina first visits, at the suggestion of Nikos (Asteris Rimagmos), the puckish, wise-beyond-his-years teenage son of the owner of the holiday home where Katerina and Yannis are staying. Katerina’s first impulse when she walks into the bar and is confronted with the curious eyes, and intertwined naked bodies of the clientele, is to flee. But Nikos persuades her to stay – the answers to her questions about the accident, and what came before it, can be found among these obliging and intimate strangers.

Meanwhile Yannis, whose dishevelled, unkempt appearance speaks of a personal crisis that started long before his bereavement, toys with the idea of his own death and self-medicates with amphetamines. A sweet, somewhat out-of-his-depth local policeman, with an attentive dog at his heel at all times, tentatively leads the investigation, revealing, to Yannis’ further despair, that there was a passenger in the car who also died.

Zois strikes a delicate balance between the banal facts of grief and the inventive framework of a parallel supernatural story. And for the most part, it works rather well. Shot in a palette of glumly muted tones, there is frequent use of shallow focus that leaves much of the frame blurred and indistinct, with only a tiny glimpse of clarity – mirroring Katerina’s experience. The sparse score features tones that sound as though they were played on wine glasses and that hang in the air like phantoms.

Towards the end of the picture, there’s a montage set to a lovely, melancholy Bulgarian folk song which is so exquisitely wistful and sad that you almost wish that Zois had decided to end with it, rather than the tacked-on and slightly unpersuasive scene that closes the film.

Production company: Foss Productions, Homemade Films

International sales: Beta Cinema beta@betacinema.com

Producers: Antigoni Rota, Maria Drandaki, Stelios Cotionis

Screenplay: Konstantina Kotzamani, Yorgos Zois

Cinematography: Konstantinos Koukoulios

Editing: Yannis Chalkiadakis

Production design: Elena Vardava

Music: Petar Dundakov

Main cast: Vangelis Mourikis, Angeliki Papoulia, Elena Topalidou, Nikolas Papagiannis, Vangelis Evangelinos