Written and Directed by Vangelis Papadiochos
Cinematography by Tasos Poziadis
Sound Design by Alex Geranis
Starring Ioanna Vogiatzi
Short Film Review by Euan Franklin
Force Majeure. Nope, not the acclaimed Swedish drama from 2014. I suppose there’s no copyright issue, since ‘force majeure’ is a Latin term used in law to describe a ‘superior force’. In 2014, Robert Östlund focused his force majeure on a devastating avalanche in the French Alps. The writer-director Vangelis Papadiochos, on the other hand, uses aliens.
Within an unnamed Greek city, a woman known only as “the girl” (Ioanna Vogiatzi) completes various chores in and around her apartment. She hangs her washing, watches X-Files, and calls her boyfriend. But there is a looming extra-terrestrial presence wobbling in the skies. When “the girl” attempts to investigate the strange happenings around her, she finds more than she intended.
The film is a tedious experience. It feels like someone telling a joke with a bloated set-up and an underwhelming punchline. There are six minutes of a boring protagonist meandering around her flat, doing nothing of note, which all builds up to a moronic payoff in the final scene. This would be somewhat forgivable if the character was unique, or even vaguely interesting. But aside from her mother and her boyfriend, who works at the observatory, we don’t learn anything about our hero. It’s not Vogiatzi’s fault – she appears to be doing her best. But Papadiochos gives her nothing to react to. It’s like he’s moved the camera and focused on a hopeful extra who has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Even though it’s clear he wants to preserve an admirable air of mystery, it only regurgitates as laziness. The occasional noise from a flying saucer is offered as medicine, but it’s a wasted effort. The seventh minute offers a shadow of curiosity, but quickly dissolves once the film cuts to the credits.
Papadiochos creates a weird and ominous tone, which unsettles us from the start. The monochrome cinematography from Tasos Poziadis is bleak with strong contrast, which reminds you of David Lynch’s Eraserhead, particularly with its flickering lights and overcast skies. Alex Geranis’s nightmarish sound design is also, for the most part, decent and innovative in its purgatorial atmosphere. Unfortunately, this is where desperate comparisons have to stop. Most of the visuals are respectable, but some of the interiors look as underprepared as a GCSE Media project. And even if this can be ignored, the cinematography is constantly undermined by cheap and clumsy subtitles. Since Greek viewers don’t need a translation, they’re probably watching a slightly better movie. English-language viewers, however, are subjected to horrifying punctuation as well as a mixture of white and black lettering for overexposed spots, which is an amateur solution to a mediocre problem.
Overall, the film is an unremarkable disaster. Vogiatzi gives a decent performance and the cinematography is (mostly) competent, but Papadiochos commits the sin of every first-time filmmaker: creating mystery and ambiguity to mask a lack of budget and imagination. It’s clear he wanted more to happen in the story, but couldn’t pull it off. I wouldn’t hasten to call the film a waste of time, but you are wasting your energy if you’re expecting something, anything, to happen. If this is a force majeure, it’s hardly a powerful one.