Alps sits with you awhile until you realize how purposeful the oddities were.
Giorgos Lanthimos’ Alps is a follow-up (some say companion piece) to his amazing 2009 film Dogtooth. The gist of the film is about how the main character loses her own identity while trying to impersonate others. The premise may not even sound all that weird because I stripped out the absurd elements that surround it. Alps may be too bizarre for some, however, you sign up for it with Lanthimos behind the camera. I found the unsettling observations in the film fascinating but not as much right at first. It is a film that sits with you awhile until you realize how purposeful the oddities were.
A woman rhythmically ribbon dances to classic orchestra music in an empty gymnasium except for one man. After her flawless routine she sits down in discouragement. She wants to do something with more pop she explains. But the man insists that she is not ready for it yet and scolds her for not trusting his judgment. He goes on to say that if she raises her voice to him again (which she did not to begin with) then he will break her arms and legs. This is the kind of “coach” that you come to expect from a Lanthimos film.
A group of people gather and explain on how they came up with the name Alps to call themselves. There were two reasons why the decided on Alps. The first is that it does not reveal anything about what they are doing. The second reason is because the Alps is a mountain range that no other mountains can substitute. The word substitute is important there because it explains what they actually do.
About a third of the way into Alps it becomes clear that they are substitutes for people that have recently passed away. When people lose their loved ones at the hospital this group of people offer to become the person that died as a way to ease the pain for the family. They completely emulate the deceased person; wear their clothes, say things in the way the person would have said things, and even live in their homes.
The scenes where the substitute is trying to act like the person that passed away were the best. It was awkward to watch them trying to fill the void of the person the family missed. Even though it is amusing to watch them impersonate someone else, the film does bring up a good question. Would people who loosely resembled someone that passed away close to you actually help ease the grieving process?
In the end Alps is less about those grieving loved ones, and more about the impersonator needing the grievers. Switching the roles between who needed who in order to function in life was by far the most interesting aspect of the film. In order to accurately portray someone, you must become that person, like an actor typically tries to do. The film shows just how dangerous it is to cling on to someone else’s identity.
Alps is not quite as disturbing but it is as equally bizarre as Dogtooth. You can definitely tell they were both directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, who already has created a unique style of his own. And a fantastic one at that. There were many similarities between both films; the color saturation, deadpan dialog and outlandish characters. Another note on characters, in both films none of the main characters have real names.
Depending on how you literal you took Dogtooth, you could consider it a pretty obvious satire on over-protective parenting. On the surface, Alps could be considered it a satire on over-acting. Dialog is delivered in an obvious mesmerized manner in scenes where the substitute presumably sounds nothing like the person they are portraying. Also characters heavily rely on objects to carryout the impersonation of the dead person they are trying to become, such as wearing a pair of shoes or perfume.
In true Lanthimos fashion, Alps allows you to interpret just how literal you want to take the themes found in it. However, Alps is more compelling the deeper you look into it. Even though it did not quite reach the level that Dogtooth got to for me, it still was a fascinating film that you simply cannot take your eyes off of. Lanthimos has certainly made his mark as director to watch out for.