Sex obsession in Attenberg
by Gabriele Barcaro
Young Marina (Ariane Labed) doesn’t really like the human species: she prefers the chimpanzees in TV documentaries by Sir Richard Attenborough, misspelled as Attenberg [+see also:
film profile] in the title of Athina Rachel Tsangari’s film, in competition at Venice. The girl thus keeps her distance from everyone. The only company she “tolerates” is that of her terminally ill father and her friend Bella, who gives her sex education lessons with Sapphic kisses.
The film opens with the two girls’ intertwined tongues, it continues amid spit and animal cries, in an alienating atmosphere. The backdrop is the almost-metaphysical landscape of an industrial town by the sea, a symbol of “bourgeois pride”– explains the father to his daughter, while they look from above at the not particularly stunning landscape.
But, beyond the memorable lines, the film’s main obsession is sex: there are dreams of penises hanging like prickly pears from the branches of “dick-trees”, the smell of stallions in heat is described, and so on. Meanwhile, Marina meets a man, and for the first time in her life she feels attracted to someone of her own species.
With the two protagonists’ strange strolls, music by Suicide and Françoise Hardy’s “legendary” “Tous les garçons et les filles de mon âge” serving as a counterpoint, the film explores the double theme of initiation with life and death, amid recurring scenes and an auteur-style intellectualism redeemed only at intervals by the original directing. “The 20th century is overrated”, one of the characters says at one point. The same can be said of certain films, even though they end up in competition.
Produced by Haos Film, Faliro House Productions, Boo Productions and Stefi Productions, with support from the Greek Film Centre and the European Union’s MEDIA Programme, Attenberg is sold internationally by Match Factory.
(Translated from Italian)