Miss Violence: a family code of silence
by Domenico La Porta
- It is with a very dark and provocative family drama that Greece is represented at the 70th Venice Mostra...
When Greek director Alexandros Avranas takes on family values, he does it with a sordid literality. In Miss Violence [+see also:
interview: Alexandros Avranas
film profile], his second film after the nationally acclaimed Without, he deals with a family man who has found a rather unorthodox way of making money out of the members of his family. In the official competition of the 70th Venice Mostra, Miss Violence raises many questions, starting with the possible gratuitousness of physical and moral violence which lies at the core of the film.
Money is the other heart of evil of this story. Cruelty could then be blamed on the economic crisis. You would have to believe that the Greek economy has ended up leading to either derision through the absurd (in line with Yorgos Lanthimos’ cinema) or, in a more worrying way, to monsters like this pater familias, the real master of the house who imposes discipline by enslaving his children. The notions of devaluation / degradation are very present in the screenplay which multiplies money exchanges on the cheap. They are first seen in the administrative coldness (with one child less, your social benefits go down by 170 euros) and then bring on a generalized apathy: horror in order to live, a code of silence to survive.
The story begins with a happy event. On the day of her eleventh birthday, young Angeliki jumps off the apartment’s balcony and dies when she meets the pavement. This suicide draws the attention of the social services to this family made up of a couple of grand parents, their two daughters and two remaining grandchildren. In the role of the grandfather, Themis Papou hides his game well behind a smooth and affected appearance that he must put up to outwit the inspectors’ questions. At first glance, nothing would suggest that this modest and well-educated family is in fact riddled with secrets and the absolute power of a control maniac whose values are questionable to say the least. Domestic violence, incest, prostitution, moral subjugation, paedophilia, the charges are numerous but Avranas is very subtle in the narration during the first hour of the film in the way that he suggests most of these elements and covers the tracks of the family genealogy.
Once the cat is out of the bag, the audience is taken hostage by the camera which becomes less shy and the gang rape scene of the teenager ends any remaining presumption of suggestion. From then onwards, the camera becomes increasingly voyeuristic and the film gradually escalates into different levels of perversity to end with a more classical descent into hell and the expected outcome.
While Miss Violence pushes the limits of decency a bit further when it comes to dysfunctional families, the ending can be interpreted as a burst of hope that it is perhaps possible to struggle out of the ambient lethargy. If this is a message to the Greeks, what should we think about this door that is immediately double-locked on a new intramural secret?
(Translated from French)
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