Review: Xenia (2014)


Director: Panos H. Koutras | 134 minutes | drama | Actors: Kostas Nikouli, Nikos Gelia, Yannis Stankoglou, Marissa Triandafyllidou, Aggelos Papadimitriou, Romanna Lobats, Patty Pravo, Kostis Rampavilas, Petros Chytiris, Electra Leda Koutra, Maria Laina, Vali Mavridi, Dinos Psychogos, Dimitris R

Greek cinema has been on a steady rise in recent years. Led by filmmakers such as Yorgos Lanthimos (‘Dogtooth’, 2009; ‘Alps’, 2011; ‘The Lobster’, 2015), Athina Rachel Tsangari (‘Attenberg’, 2010), Argyris Papadimitropoulos (‘Wasted Youth’, 2011) and Syllas Tzoumerkas (‘A Blast’, 2014), a movement is underway from which quirky, fresh films are sprouting. It is called new wave or weird wave, since most films currently being made in Greece have the same absurd radicalism and are full of heavy violence and black humor. The severe financial crisis facing Greece has proved fertile ground for filmmakers. Panos H. Koutras is also joining the Greek weird wave. He made his debut in 2009 with “Strella” and five years later made a remarkable road movie called “Xenia” (2014), starring a young, colorful gay man and his white rabbit, which he carries with him in a handbag.

This Dani (Kostas Nikouli) is only fifteen, but has been through a lot. After his Albanian mother died, he left Crete to go to the mainland. In Athens he – and the viewer – is confronted with the consequences of the crisis in Greece. There is plenty of poverty, but there is also the hatred for foreigners that keeps the country in its grip. However, only one thing counts for Dani: he wants to visit his brother Ody (Nikos Gelia), who is two years older, to track down their father. There is only one problem: they have never seen this man before. Dani claims that politician Lefteris Christopoulos (Yannis Stankoglou) is the man they are looking for. And so they move towards Thessaloniki. Dani wants their alleged father to recognize his paternity and also sees in him a cash cow who can help the brothers solve their financial problems. Along the way they run into the necessary obstacles, as is the case in a road movie.

“Xenia” is a film that falls into two minds. On the one hand, Koutras wants to show the current situation in his homeland, complete with the radicalization in politics and the xenophobia that lives among the people, hatred that the brothers as half Albanians also have to deal with. Moreover, Dani is already a striking appearance with his peroxide blonde hair and feminine dress style, and those kinds of “strange birds” are also appreciated by all Greeks. On the other hand, Koutras smears the (references to) homosexuality and all the clichés and kitschiness associated with it very well. The scantily clad dances, references to the Eurovision Song Contest and extravagant clothing – and of course always that white rabbit … – form a stark contrast to the heavy theme that bubbles under the surface. It is an imbalance that shows itself on several fronts; In the direction, the story and the tempo, for example, Koutras does not clearly draw the same line and it looks a lot like that the editing room did not act too firmly either, because the film lasts far too long. We also see imbalance between the omnipresent Nikouli and Gelia, which is therefore rather overshadowed.

Although there are plenty of comments and remarks, “Xenia” is a courageous attempt by director Koutras, who certainly does not look out of place in the list of films belonging to the Greek weird wave. Heavy themes are addressed, but in a light-hearted way. You just have to work through an excess of kitsch for a while!

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