Contemporary Greek Film Cultures from 1990 to the Present

by Tonia Kazakopoulou (Volume editor) Mikela Fotiou (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XXXII, 410 Pages
Series: New Studies in European Cinema, Volume 21


This collection of new writing on contemporary Greek cinema builds and expands on existing work in the field, providing a coherent analysis of films which, despite their international importance, have so far received limited critical attention. The volume maps key trends in Greek cinema since the 1990s within the wider context of production and consumption at both national and international levels. It offers a wide range of critical analyses of documentary and avant-garde filmmaking, art house and popular cinema, and the work of established and new directors as well as deliberations on teaching methodologies and marketing strategies. The book seeks to highlight the continuities, mutual influences and common contexts that inform, shape and inspire filmmaking in Greece today.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction (Tonia Kazakopoulou)
  • Works Cited
  • 1 Short Voyages to the Land of Gregarious Animals: On Political Aesthesia in Sto Lyko and Sweetgrass (Ulrich Meurer / Maria Oikonomou)
  • The End (One)
  • The Land of the People
  • Truth
  • Displacement Activity
  • The Animal: Sidewards/Downwards
  • Diagram
  • Lass mich in Ruhe meine Schafe weiden
  • The End (Two)
  • Works Cited
  • 2 Constructing the Urban Cinematic Landscape: Theo Angelopoulos’s Thessaloniki (Stavros Alifragkis)
  • Introduction
  • The City of Poetic Contemplation: Thessaloniki in Voyage to Cythera
  • The City of Romantic Escapism: Thessaloniki in the Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow
  • Angelopoulos’s Filmic City: A Composite Landscape
  • Hypertopos
  • Urban waiting rooms
  • Epilogue: The Mythical Landscape of the City
  • Acknowledgements
  • Works Cited
  • 3 The Spatio-Temporality of the Avant-Gardes: Feminist Avant-Garde U-Topoi in Greek Cinema from Transition to Crisis (Rea Walldén)
  • Spatio-Temporal Questions Regarding Avant-Garde Art and their Application to Cinema
  • The Example of Avant-Garde Cinema in Greece: Two Turning Points
  • Feminist Film U-Topoi: Women’s Worlds
  • Feminist Film U-Topoi: The Temporality of Initiation
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • 4 This Tongue Is Not my Own: Dogtooth, Phobia and the Paternal Metaphor (Ben Tyrer)
  • Home / School / Garden / Prison
  • Method and Madness
  • Psychosis, Perversion, Neurosis
  • Phobia
  • The Mythic Function
  • Castle Doctrine
  • Les vidéos volées
  • Bruce, in her Unbearable Splendour
  • Schrödinger’s Dog
  • Dogtongue
  • Works Cited
  • 5 Family, Gender and the Emotional Economy in Tsemberopoulos’s The Enemy Within (Angie Voela)
  • Introduction
  • Fathers and Family Values
  • Louisa’s Silence
  • Pity, Sympathy and Beyond
  • Works Cited
  • 6 In the Name of the Father: Rituals of Gender and Democracy in Olga Malea’s First Time Godfather (Tonia Kazakopoulou)
  • Figures of Speech
  • Eat, Praise, Vote
  • It’s all Greek to Alex
  • In Their Own Terms: Modernizing Discourses
  • Works Cited
  • 7 No Country for Old Faggots: Exploring Queer Utopias in Panos Koutras’s Strella (Marios Psaras)
  • Works Cited
  • 8 A Touch of Spice: Postmodern Identities and the Construction of the Other through Film Music (Nick Poulakis)
  • Works Cited
  • 9 The Albanian in the Room: Revisiting Greek Hospitality in From the Snow and Plato’s Academy (Philip Phillis)
  • Into the Era of Migration and Transnational Cinema
  • Imagined Community, Imagined Fatherland: Repatriation of the Ethnic Greek Community in From the Snow
  • You Will Never Become a Greek: Reinforcing Eurocentrism in Plato’s Academy
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • 10 ‘White Ethnicity’ and the Challenge of Independent Greek Films to Greek Stereotypes in the Global Imaginary (Taso G. Lagos)
  • Branding and the Global Imaginary
  • The Tribulations of White Ethnicity
  • Challenging Greek Stereotypes and White Ethnicity
  • Is Greece Becoming Less ‘White Ethnic’?
  • Works Cited
  • 11 Marketing Communications in the Greek Film Industry: Rethinking Contemporary Greek Cinema (Afroditi Nikolaidou)
  • Introduction: Film Marketing from a Film History Perspective
  • Greek Film Marketing within Greek Film Studies
  • End of an Era: ‘Eventizing’ the Release
  • Safe Sex: Branding as a Theme
  • From Communication Practices to Strategic Communication: The Post-2008 Years
  • Love in the End: From Product Placement to Crowdsourcing
  • The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas: Transmediating the Narrative
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • 12 The ‘New Greek Cinema’ before the ‘Greek New Wave’: The Case of The Only Journey of his Life (Erato Basea)
  • Introduction
  • The Only Journey of his Life as a Film Adaptation and a Literary Biopic
  • A ‘Literary’ Film Adaptation
  • From the Death of the Author to the Confirmation of the National Auteur
  • The Confirmation of the ‘New Greek Cinema’ before the ‘Greek New Wave’
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • Works Cited
  • 13 Nikolaidis’s Diptych Those Who Loved a Corpse: A ‘Pasticcio of Pastiches’ (Mikela Fotiou)
  • Singapore Sling: The Man Who Loved a Corpse
  • See You in Hell, My Darling: A Necroromance
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • Works Cited
  • 14 The Ethics of Heterogeneity and Experimentation: Teaching Film Direction in the Film School at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Antoinetta Angelidi with Rea Walldén)
  • The First University Film School in Greece
  • Filmmaking Poetics from Learning to Teaching and Back: A Life-Path
  • The Multiple Meanings of Heterogeneity and Experimentation
  • Film Direction Modules and Student Films: Experiments and Polyphony
  • Conclusions for Apprentice Wizards
  • Works Cited
  • Legal and administrative texts
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Figure 1.1: Sweetgrass (Barbash and Castaing-Taylor, 2009).
Press image, courtesy of Dogwoof distributors, UK, 2013 <http://dogwoof.com/films/sweetgrass#images>.

Figure 1.2: Sto Lyko (Hughes and Koutsospyrou, 2013).
Screenshot, HD video file, courtesy of the authors and Linel Films, 2013 <https://vimeo.com/71192559>.

Figure 1.3: Sweetgrass (Barbash and Castaing-Taylor, 2009).
DVD screenshot, courtesy of the authors and Dogwoof distributors, UK, 2013.

Figure 1.4: Sto Lyko (Hughes and Koutsospyrou, 2013).
Screenshot, HD video file, courtesy of the authors and Linel Films, 2013 <https://vimeo.com/71192559>.

Figure 2.1: Shot-by-shot analysis of the scene at the old port of Thessaloniki in Voyage to Cythera (Theo Angelopoulos, 1984). Arrows indicate camera movement. Red squares suggest interior shots.
Sketch by the author.

Figure 2.2: The plan of Theo Angelopoulos’s film set ‘hill with the sheets’ for Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (2004). Yellow: Upper West District (10 adobes); light blue: Lower West District (23 adobes); purple: Central District (21 adobes); orange: Upper East District I (12 adobes); pink: Upper East District II (16 adobes); blue: Lower East District I (18 adobes); green: Lower East District II (20 adobes). Total: 118 adobes. Sketch by the author. ← vii | viii →

Figure 2.3: The plan of Theo Angelopoulos’s film set ‘hill with the sheets’ for Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (2004). Diagrammatic representation of Kevin Lynch’s analysis of the urban form mapped onto Angelopoulos’s film set. Sketch by the author.

Figure 3.1: Idées Fixes/Dies Irae (Antoinetta Angelidi, 1977).
Reproduced with permission from Antoinetta Angelidi.

Figure 3.2: Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2010).
Reproduced with permission from Athina Rachel Tsangari.

Figure 9.1: The host monitors his guests in From the Snow (Sotiris Goritsas, 1993). DVD screenshot, New Star, Greece, 2002.

Figure 9.2: ‘Matter out of place’, Plato’s Academy (Filippos Tsitos, 2009). DVD screenshot, NUTOPIA, Greece, 2010.

Figure 13.1: Left: Laura and the detective in Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944); right: daughter and the
detective in Singapore Sling (Nikos Nikolaidis, 1990). Laura: DVD screenshot, 20th Century Fox, USA, 2012. Singapore Sling: DVD screenshot, Restless Wind, Greece, 2011.

Figure 13.2: Statues sprayed with blood. Left: Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964); right: See You in Hell, My Darling (Nikos Nikolaidis, 1999). Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte: DVD screenshot, 20th Century Fox, USA, 2012. See You in Hell, My Darling: DVD screenshot, Restless Wind, Greece, 2011.

Figure 14.1: Ora Mesimeriou/Noon Hour (Antoinetta Angelidi and Rea Walldén, 2006). Reproduced with permission from Antoinetta Angelidi and Rea Walldén. ← viii | ix →

Figure 14.2: Pigs (Konstantina Kontzamani, 2010). Reproduced with permission from Konstantina Kontzamani.

Figure 14.3: Nomadikes Michanes/Nomadic Machines (Maya Tsamprou and collective, 2012). Reproduced with permission from Maya Tsamprou.

| xi →


A number of people played a part in this book coming to life. We would like to thank the delegates of the Contemporary Greek Film Cultures 2013 international conference (5–6 July, London), the first in a series of conferences, where the inspiration, and some of the content of this book, came from. More specifically, we would like to thank Philip Phillis, who offered valuable help in the initial stages of the proposal and editing process of this book.

Thanks are owed to the Department of Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading and the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow, who supported the Contemporary Greek Film Cultures 2013 conference. Continued thanks are offered to the staff of the Department of Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading, who have offered valuable advice and support throughout the publication process of this book.

We owe gratitude to Pedro de Senna for his continued support, practical and psychological; without his critical input and thorough proofreading, this book could not have been what it is. Also thanks to Kostas Karatzas for his psychological support.

Thanks are also owed to Ektoras Lygizos and his beautiful film Boy Eating the Bird’s Food, where the cover image of the book comes from.

Many thanks to the series editors, Wendy Everett and Axel Goodbody, who embraced this edited volume from the beginning. And, of course, thank you to our commissioning editor, Laurel Plapp, and to all staff at Peter Lang Oxford who worked on the book.

Last, but not least, we extend our thanks to the authors who participated in this edited collection. Their high quality and varied contributions have indeed made this edited collection an inclusive volume, representative of contemporary Greek film cultures.

| xiii →



The journey of this book began in early July 2013 at the international conference Contemporary Greek Film Cultures in London. And while it has since become a separate entity from the conference, the book has retained the name and heritage of that event.1 There are three constitutive elements to the naming of the conference and subsequently the book: contemporary, Greek film, and film cultures. Moreover, this book marks the early 1990s as the departure point of Greek cinema into its ‘contemporary’ phase, following from the preceding periods of ‘New Greek Cinema’ of the 1970s and 1980s and ‘Old Greek Cinema’ before that. Needless to say that these few opening lines are a minefield of terms, concepts and historical demarcations one needs to navigate carefully.

It is contemporary no more, this latest phase of Greek cinema. In temporal terms at least. As Lydia Papadimitriou has noted, using ‘the term “contemporary” to characterize this period is undoubtedly problematic as this is clearly a temporary temporal designation – what is contemporary now will soon cease to be so’.2 However, apart from its strictly temporal designation ← xiii | xiv → and a discussion with wider implications about periodization in Greek film history, the conceptualization of the ‘contemporary’ in Contemporary Greek Film Cultures can be flexible, and used as an umbrella term for all the films produced after 1990 and to the present, as well as to describe Greek cinema as it develops. In other words, films from the 1990s can continue to be understood as ‘contemporary’ because the term also describes alternative ways of film practice and film reception that departed from those of previous periods.

More importantly, the ‘contemporary’ needs to be considered within the context of another constitutive part in the title of this book: that of ‘cultures’, plural. Thus, it is not only new films, new film technologies and new ways of production, distribution and consumption that can be examined and understood as Contemporary Film Cultures; new writing on all Greek cinema, new methodological approaches, new developments in archiving and historiography can also be considered. In short, the semantic openness of the proposed designation is encouraged, and itself encourages innovative, current reflections and explorations of Greek cinema as a whole.

This, however, is not an exploration of all film cultures, but only those recognized as ‘Greek’. The notion of the national when discussing cinema has been successfully questioned and problematized numerous times.3 It is not the aim of this introduction to repeat existing research. Nevertheless, it is useful to highlight the continuous practicality of the national as a form of categorization, despite the various conceptual and ideological problematics. In this sense, a film or a filmmaker’s or industry’s output does not ← xiv | xv → need to be exclusively categorized as national, Greek in this case, but this is only one of the categories to which it may or may not belong. ‘Greek’, therefore, in the construction of the identity of this book is a concept that helps delineate the cinematic output this volume examines; and like the aforementioned fundamental elements in its title, ‘Greekness’ must also be recognized as a fluid, flexible, multi-faceted construct.

This book, then, examines texts and contexts from the early 1990s onwards. This is when Greek cinema started re-emerging in theatre screens and attracting increasing interest, evident both through box office success and renewed critical attention. From popular genre cinema, to art-house, avant-garde and documentary, Greek cinema in the last three decades has re-invented itself and commanded the attention of audiences and critics alike, both nationally and internationally.

Since the mid-2000s, academic criticism has also increasingly focused on this re-birth or re-ignition of Greek cinema, with a number of publications appearing and seeking to explore various aspects of Greek cinematic practices and contexts. The aim of this edited collection is to expand on current analyses of the country’s film cultures of the last twenty-five years, as well as to move beyond those more established fields of research, with innovative contributions in terms of content and methodology. This edited volume seeks to map key trends of the Greek cinematic output since the early 1990s, considering a variety of films within their various contexts of production, distribution and consumption, both at national and international levels.

Arguably, the ever-expanding film festival circuit has opened opportunities for showcasing the cinema of smaller countries with generally limited output, such as Greece. The trend of European and international co-productions has also benefitted Greek filmmakers, who have had limited institutional support in their own country. In addition, the global financial crisis, which has hit Greece most forcefully, has decreased film funding even further, thus encouraging filmmakers to seek support beyond the country’s borders. Thematically, this financial and socio-political crisis in Greece has been reflected in films produced mostly after 2009 in particular; and much of current academic research has indeed focused on this ‘New Wave’, which primarily involves art-house productions with generally limited box office ← xv | xvi → success. A number of chapters in the present volume indeed consider films of the so-called ‘Weird Wave’ or ‘New Wave’ of Greek cinema.

However, there has been another type of film production in the country, which, despite its success with audiences, has so far enjoyed very limited academic attention. The re-emergence of Greek popular cinema in the 1990s has mostly been referred to in negative terms, a tendency this edited collection seeks to problematize with the inclusion of a number of essays dealing with popular films from that decade and placing them in conversation with more established academic studies. Popular cinema re-emerged at a time when Greece had enjoyed a period of seeming affluence and adopted an outward-looking view, promoting its European identity and its global outreach (culminating with the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens). Moreover, popular cinema has continued to observe Greek reality in interesting and innovative ways, both thematically and formally, in the transition years between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The turn of academic attention towards that period and to popular genre films and television of the era in the last few years is indeed encouraging.

We identify two broad but equally important tendencies (and generally discreet, despite some points of overlap) in contemporary Greek film practice and output: first, from the early 1990s4 to 2009, the re-emergence of popular cinema and its often claimed close relationship to the new, deregulated television industry in the country. In addition, and in agreement with Papadimitriou,5 we consider 2009 a focal point when the so-called ‘festival film’ takes the reins in Greek film production, and contextual factors change in a dramatic way, affecting Greek cinema in the process. A perceived turn towards art-house/auteur, low-budget, transnational productions characterizes this second tendency of the ‘New Wave’, as it has been called. Critics ← xvi | xvii → in the anglophone context have called this trend ‘Weird Wave’ of Greek cinema,6 though this is not an unproblematic term. As outlined below, the selected contributions in this volume focus on and examine the variety of films within both tendencies from 1990 onwards, contextualizing the prominence and dominance of popular cinema, as well as addressing this perceived new turn of Greek cinema, offering new theoretical and/or methodological perspectives. Most importantly this edited collection identifies a ‘cross-fertilization’ process that we believe exists between these two periods and trends; an enquiry which has not been pursued in Greek Film Studies until now.

In fulfilling its aims of making new inroads in Greek Film Studies, the book contains contributions which are innovative, covering a wide range of topics and analysing films that have had limited attention or have never before been explored in Greek Film Studies (in Greece and abroad). Quite intentionally, the chapters have not been ordered temporally or in terms of the broad tendencies outlined above (popular and art-house). Rather, the chapters are ordered in a dialogic relationship to each other, addressing similar issues from different perspectives, meeting at interesting junction points before changing course and moving the conversation forward. In this we seek to emphasize a holistic view of Greek cinema and highlight the continuities, mutual influences and often common contextual stimuli that inform, shape, inspire (consciously, but often not) filmmaking and film discussion. Having said that, this is also an anthology of new writing about Greek cinema, and as such it allows each chapter to be read independently, rather than in the order proposed by the editors.

Ulrich Meurer and Maria Oikonomou’s chapter ‘Short Voyages to the Land of Gregarious Animals: On Political Aesthesia in Sto Lyko and Sweetgrass’ opens the volume, with its focus on the encounter of aesthesis and politics in contemporary documentary cinema. It examines Christina Koutsospyrou and Aran Hughes’s Sto Lyko/To the Wolf (2013), an experimental docudrama that follows the daily life of goatherds and their families ← xvii | xviii → in Greece’s rural Nafpaktia region. A close reading of the film’s formal dominants reveals the film’s complex differentiation between the ‘atmospheric’ and ‘sensitive’ constituents of images. It analyses their visual, acoustic, and tactile and even olfactory qualities which, instead of producing readable ‘meaning’, relocate the image in the realm of sensory perception. In order not only to understand such ‘sensitizing strategies’, but to delineate their latent affinity with socio-political concepts, to explore possible interconnections between neural ‘affectation’ and contemporary capitalism, between the economy of the senses and the sense of economy in cinema, the authors take a comparative approach: their chapter correlates Sto Lyko to the American documentary Sweetgrass (Ilisa Barbash, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 2009) about the last trail of sheepherders in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. Apart from numerous similarities regarding the two films’ topic, political footing and production method, Sweetgrass’s background with Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) promises deeper insight into the general relations between the aesthesia of moving images and the social as well as bodily praxis and affective fabric of human (and animal) existence. Opposing the journalistic and discursive traditions of documentary and visual anthropology, SEL’s emphasis on the sensory mediation of the ‘natural and unnatural world’ provides a framework for the consideration of the two films and for the analysis of filmic experience and/as political concept.

The aesthetic and atmospheric qualities of film form, as well as the social and political dimensions of film are aspects that also inform Stavros Alifragkis’s chapter ‘Constructing the Urban Cinematic Landscape: Theo Angelopoulos’s Thessaloniki’. In addition, the discussion moves forward by invoking the notion of (national) identity through constructed cinematic space. Much of Theo Angelopoulos’s filmic work has been primarily associated with New Greek Cinema’s highly contested reconstructions of the space and the experience of the Greek countryside. This chapter builds upon existing literature on Angelopoulos’s cinematic landscapes and new and previously unpublished material in order to propose a fresh reading of the director’s urban cinematic terrains as the dialectical opposite of the screen spaces, and identities, of the Greek periphery. Alifragkis’s research acknowledges Angelopoulos’s cinematic representations of the city as a ← xviii | xix → crucial collocutor in the filmmaker’s diegetic universe and traces their spatial characteristics and narratological functions. The chapter focuses on the close study and detailed analysis of Angelopoulos’s screen-city of Thessaloniki, for which primary and secondary bibliographical and archival sources have been made available to the author through the late filmmaker himself and his close collaborators. This chapter employs Theo Angelopoulos’s film Trilogia: To Livadi pou Dakryzei/Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (2003) as a telling case-study for the rigorous and methodical examination of aspects of film style and film form – as established in the opening chapter of this volume – with a special interest on the mechanisms by which the city of Thessaloniki is being reconstructed on the screen canvas. In particular, the two large-scale, (almost) life-size sets – the first such attempt in Angelopoulos’s filmography – built for the film, are discussed here at length, as two archetypal cinematic spaces that encapsulate the essence of Angelopoulos’s city-countryside dialectic. The method introduced here is styled after Bordwell and Thompson’s neo-formalist approach to film studies, complemented with the analytical insight of Tsivian’s ‘cinemetrics’ technique. The author performs a neo-formalist, shot-by-shot analysis of relevant sequences from Angelopoulos’s film, followed by the statistical processing of the accumulated metadata and the 2D and 3D visualization of the results. This study contributes to the on-going discussion about urban cinematic spaces in relation to Theo Angelopoulos’s later work and the uses of screen-cities in contemporary Greek cinema. Moreover, Alifragkis’s chapter introduces, though indirectly, the figure of the revered (male) auteur and prominent discussions of film authorship in Greek film criticism that are alluded to or directly discussed in many of the chapters that follow. Angelopoulos is a filmmaker mostly associated with another era, that of New Greek Cinema, but continued to make films in the twenty-first century alongside younger filmmakers examined in subsequent chapters.

The philosophical exploration of the relationship between film aesthetics and politics more broadly continues in Rea Walldén’s chapter, but takes a different turn from narrative cinema to the avant-garde; in addition, Walldén’s chapter implicitly challenges the prominence of the male auteur in Greek cinema – indeed a cornerstone figure in Greek film criticism – by discussing two female auteurs. In ‘The Spatio-Temporality of ← xix | xx → the Avant-Gardes: Feminist Avant-Garde U-Topoi in Greek Cinema from Transition to Crisis’, the author identifies two extended moments in Greek history marked by the significant events of the country’s transition to democracy (1974) and its recent and catastrophic economic crisis (since 2009). Within this temporal bracket, she investigates the relation between feminist and avant-garde strategies in the context of Greek cinema by comparing four films by two paradigmatic Greek filmmakers of different generations: Idées Fixes/Dies Irae (1977) and Topos (1985) by Antoinetta Angelidi, and Attenberg (2010) and The Capsule (2012) by Athina Rachel Tsangari. Angelidi is identified as one of the very few representatives of the avant-garde cinema in Greece, in its belated appearance in the 1970s; Tsangari is one of the most recognizable representatives of the novel trend or wave in Greek cinema, distinctive precisely for its provocative re-introduction of the 1970s’ avant-garde strategies and techniques. Moreover, both filmmakers share the use of a consciously feminist discourse, which, the author argues, is very closely interrelated to their avant-garde choices. Finally, both filmmakers fit uncomfortably under the label of national cinema and have been often accused for their ‘internationalism’, and yet they are also considered important representatives of certain periods of Greek cinematic production, much like Theo Angelopoulos. In these respects, Walldén’s chapter is also a junction point in that it introduces discussions of gender identity and the construction within patriarchy that continue in subsequent chapters.

First, the chapter ‘This Tongue Is Not My Own: Dogtooth, Phobia and the Paternal Metaphor’ by Ben Tyrer provides a close study of Yorgos Lanthimos’s Kynodontas/Dogtooth (2009), which exists in the shadow of certain real life cases and, as a film about a dictatorial Greek patriarch, has been open to readings of political allegory; however, the author notes that what is also interesting about the film, from a Lacanian perspective, is what it suggests about language and family structure. The film places great emphasis on signifiers and meaning, showing the latter to originate with the father and the paternal regime. Through Lacan’s conception of phobia and the paternal metaphor, this chapter explores the constitution of the Subject, in and through language, in Dogtooth. The author proposes that the film’s diegesis establishes an alternative, phobic Symbolic order, based ← xx | xxi → on recognizable signifiers but radically different signifieds. Working in a properly psychoanalytic manner – which is to say, to discover what the pathological instance can reveal about the general condition – this chapter explores the relationship between language and the family structure in Dogtooth to demonstrate the way in which the film exposes the structures that determine the Subject. While referencing similar concerns in other contemporary Greek films such as Attenberg, it also examines a seemingly closely related film – Arturo Ripstein’s El Castillo de la Pureza/The Castle of Purity (1973) – and enumerates the important (and instructive) cinematic and philosophical differences between this and Lanthimos’s work.

Angie Voela’s chapter ‘Family, Gender and the Emotional Economy in Tsemberopoulos’s The Enemy Within’ extends the discussions of gender, family and identity initiated in the preceding essays. In her psychoanalytic and Marxist-informed feminist analysis of the film O Ehthros Mou/The Enemy Within (Yorgos Tsemberopoulos, 2013), she raises questions of contemporary representations of gender. Tsemberopoulos’s film focuses on a father’s decision to find and kill his daughter’s rapist. The film raises complex issues pertaining to contemporary Greek life: the pressure on middle-class men to assume more traditional patriarchal roles when the ‘honour’ of the female family members has been compromised; the difficulties of the protagonist, a self-proclaimed liberal man, to come to terms with such a task; the mounting racial tensions when the perpetrator is falsely assumed to be an ethnic Other; the increasing obsession with safety and surveillance combined with the pervasive lack of trust in state institutions such as the police. The cinematically accomplished representation of masculinity combined with the emotional effectiveness of the hero’s ‘tragic’ guilt on the audience would be enough to qualify the film as an important instance of contemporary Greek cinema. Yet, according to the author, there is another aspect of the film, which raises important questions: the representation of women, the mother and daughter of the family, who remain passive and unwilling to speak about the rape or deal with it in any other way than in silence. These women seem to invite not empathy, but oblivion. This chapter argues, then, that The Enemy Within makes for uncomfortable viewing: it solicits the female viewer’s pity for the male protagonist while accentuating the absence of the female’s experience. It leaves ← xxi | xxii → one lurching between the law of the father – and his decision to avenge the rape on ‘behalf’ of the daughter – and the elision of the female this entails. The feminine vulnerability/male responsibility, the author argues, is a fantasy, the operation of which must be appreciated in the context of both local trends in the South of Europe, such as the rise of conservatism, sexism, homophobia and nationalism, and the wider effects of neoliberalism, such as the collapse of the traditional left, the disempowerment of the community, the rise of technology, the rise of individual apathy. As Greece is reeling from recent economic and other traumas, but has yet to achieve a collective interpretation of these events, the re-emergence of the vulnerable female fantasy temporarily fills the gap, providing some sort of imaginary consistency in lieu of the collapse of other narratives. Resisting an ‘emotional’ response and empathy with this fantasy is therefore, Voela maintains, the only critical perspective available to the female viewer. The film, therefore, is worth discussing for its double-bind on gender, irrespective of whether the latter is the result of directorial choice or the effect of a return of the repressed on a national level.

Tonia Kazakopoulou’s chapter ‘In the Name of the Father: Rituals of Gender and Democracy in Olga Malea’s First Time Godfather’ follows on by considering a number of returns: from the present to the past, from modernity to tradition (and back), from the city to the countryside. Thematically, the author continues preceding articulations of the implications of gender in (the national) politics. Kazakopoulou also moves the conversation away from avant-garde and art-house filmmaking and on to popular cinema through the analysis of Olga Malea’s Proti Fora Nonos/First Time Godfather (2007), and the director’s use of comedic strategies, which locate patriarchy at the centre of national discourses and at the very heart of Greece’s cultural heritage and socio-political systems. At a textual level, the author argues, the film deals, ultimately, with patriarchal structures underpinning power relations in Greek politics and society, which are caught in a cycle of perpetual modernization. The film examines an important moment in the history of the contemporary Greek state (the early 1960s), when traditional modes of living and organizing power were beginning to be challenged by new models of democracy in the formation of a national political discourse. Using genre as a vehicle, Malea exposes the ← xxii | xxiii → complex relations between these forces, models and discourses. Through close textual analysis, the chapter demonstrates that the film’s comedy and critique come from character stereotyping, which de-naturalizes accepted ritualized behaviours; and from the director’s semiotic shuffle of established notions that are constantly re-signified. Extra-textually, with its release at a time when Greece was increasingly faced with socio-economic problems fuelled further by political scandals and revelations of corruption at every level (significantly just before the full-blown post-2009 socio-political and economic crisis), the film’s ironic depictions of opportunism, populism and clientelism in the name of democratic rule; and its critical stance towards the gendered rituals of democracy – by far one of Greece’s most treasured ideals – were particularly apposite. In hindsight, the film appears almost as a warning and a reminder of the shaky foundations upon which the political establishment stood. One of the reasons for paying attention to popular genres, this chapter concludes, is that these are especially capable of commenting and capturing the zeitgeist, general mood and anxieties.


XXXII, 410
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (May)
contemporary Greek cinema Greek film studies film cultures new writing textual analysis
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. XXXII, 410 pp., 4 coloured ill., 12 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Tonia Kazakopoulou (Volume editor) Mikela Fotiou (Volume editor)

Tonia Kazakopoulou is a Teaching Fellow in Film and Television at the University of Reading, where she has completed her PhD in film. Her research interests include women’s cinema of small nations, particularly of Greece; contemporary European and world cinemas; and genre and gender in film and television. She has published on women screenwriters, women’s popular cinema and representations of motherhood in Greek cinema. She is the co-organizer of the international standing conference Contemporary Greek Film Cultures and is on the editorial board of Filmicon: Journal of Greek Film Studies. Mikela Fotiou holds a PhD in Film Studies from the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include authorship, female representation and genre, especially film noir and horror film. She is the co-organizer of the international standing conference Contemporary Greek Film Cultures and is on the editorial board of Filmicon: Journal of Greek Film Studies.


Title: Contemporary Greek Film Cultures from 1990 to the Present