Friday, August 12, 2016


At first glance, one wouldn’t associate Kinetta with the rest of the films in Yorgos Lanthimos’ body of work. And that’s understandable. Not only was his feature film debut made almost five years before Dogtooth (a movie that is often times wrongly credited as Yorgos Lanthimos’ first feature film), but the camerawork in Kinetta is a lot more rough & “amateur-ish” in comparison to the polarizing/polished cinematography we saw in later works like The Lobster & Alps (a lot of the hotel scenes in The Lobster are reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining). Kinetta almost looks like a dogma film (it should be noted that before The Lobster, the use of music in Lanthimos’ films stayed close to the dogma-esque rules concerning music in that whatever music is featured in a dogma film cannot be added in post production).

But if you’re willing to get past the look of Kinetta (which isn't even an issue as far as I'm concerned), you’ll see that it literally planted the seeds for all the recent stuff we love like Dogtooth, Alps & The Lobster. It is my opinion that Kinetta, Dogtooth, Alps & The Lobster all take place in the same universe. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the characters from Kinetta knew some of the characters from Alps. There’s a strong continuous thread that connects everything in the cinematic world of Yorgos Lanthimos. Kinetta has very little dialogue. For those of you who haven’t noticed (or are only familiar with The Lobster) minimal/spaced out dialogue is a common characteristic of Lanthimos’ pre-Lobster work. Both Dogtooth & Alps contain a lot of empty space as far as talking goes when compared to "conventional movies". Loneliness (The Lobster), identity (Alps & Dogtooth), awkward dryness (Lobster, Alps & Dogtooth) and deadpan expressionism (Lobster, Alps & Dogtooth) are embedded in to the fabric of Kinetta. Even the basic plot of Alps sounds like a light reworking of the plot to Kinetta...

The emphasis on music: Kinetta/The Lobster

In Kinetta we follow three residents of a resort town during the off season. To pass the time they reenact murders just like the characters in Alps who reenact scenes from people’s past in order to help them get some closure.
I immediately related to the ambiance of Kinetta having went to college near Virginia Beach. I’m not sure if you know this but during the late Fall & Winter seasons, Virginia Beach is a (sometimes) strange, empty, desolate place depending on where you are. And that isn’t an insult (I know it sounds a little harsh). It’s just strange seeing such a popular tourist spot so empty for an extended period of time (I'm really talking about the main strip in Virginia Beach to be quite honest). Actually, the vibe of Kinetta kind of feels like staying on a college campus during Christmas or summer. On one hand – it’s incredibly lonely & isolated. But on the other hand, depending on your personality, there’s something calm & soothing about isolation (and it goes without saying, but when you find yourself isolated & lonely you don’t say much, just like the characters in Kinetta).

Kinetta kind of comes off like Antonioni’s Red Desert except with a slight tinge of dark/dry humor that one would expect from Yorgos Lanthimos.

Loneliness: Kinetta/The Red Desert
Desolate landscapes: Kinetts/The Red Desert

I’m not quite sure if Yorgos Lanthimos is trying to show the dreariness of small town life in Greece, or if he’s trying to explore the pointlessness of our existence all together. I’m sure if you seek out enough reviews for Kinetta you’ll find cases for both scenarios (or perhaps you’ll find a completely different analysis all together). I find it interesting that the characters in all of Lanthimos’ pre-Lobster films are all servants and/or caregivers of some kind. The protagonists in Alps are EMTs & Medical assistants. The wife & children in Dogtooth are essentially homemakers, and the main characters in Kinetta all work in the service industry. The existence of a caregiver can be depressing. No wonder the large majority of Yorgos Lanthimos’ characters are always trying to be someone else and escape their own existence. The more I think about it, the more I think that maybe Lanthimos is trying to show outsiders with romantic views of Greece (and other "exotic" lands) that it isn’t always this beautiful getaway that some people make it out to be (just look at their ongoing financial problems).
But Yorgos Lanthimos is tough to read. He’s very much like his films in that he’s a little deadpan and sometimes expressionless. So who knows what he’s really trying to convey at the end of the day. All I know is that all his movies are great and they bring out some kind of emotion in me.

I’ve never been to Greece but I’m sure it’s beautiful. I’m sure some places are like paradise on earth based on some of the pictures I’ve seen. But (some) outsiders have this romanticized vision of Greece as if it’s one big vacation getaway (same with places like Nevada, Hawaii and even Florida to a smaller extent). I would love to see more films set in places like Vegas & Hawaii told from the perspective of folks who were born and raised there as opposed to outsiders.

Revisiting Kinetta also brought me to the realization that there’s an incredibly strong parallel between the works of Rick Alverson & Yorgos Lanthimos (two PINNLAND EMPIRE favorites). Both directors have four features under their belts with the same progression & growth from one movie to the next. Look at the bookends of their careers so far - Kinetta & The Builder (Alverson) are both raw, “natural-looking” films, while The Lobster & Entertainment (Alverson) are a lot more polished-looking and feature better known actors (John C Reilly appears in both the aforementioned movies). Lanthimos & Alverson also challenge the idea of “humor” in the same non-pretentious yet provocative way (when you watch movies directed by these two contemporaries you find yourself wondering if it’s OK to laugh or not).
If you’re a fan of Lanthimos it’s important that you seek out Kinetta. Not just to see where it all started, but because it’s a solid film. I understand that up until recently it was a tough film to come by (I was lucky enough to see a screening of it at The Museum Of The Moving Image a few years ago) but there’s finally a multi-region DVD available courtesy of Second Run DVD that I highly recommend seeking out.


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