Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Greek film: Spirtokouto

Above is a clip from Spirtokouto (2002) by Yiannis Economides, the whole of the film can be seen here at

Spirtokouto (Matchbox) is an emotionally uncompromising and brutal film depicting family – and by extension societal – breakdown and disintegration, in which Greek family and Greek society is no longer a realm of solidarity, love, self-realisation, trust, honesty and mutual support, but of tension, cruelty, loathing, self-loathing, alienation, conflict, mental torture, frustration, selfishness, repression, disappointment, lies, where there are no boundaries or rules, where we cannot make others conform to our desires, see our reason or pay attention to the flawed choices we know they are making.

An uncomfortable film about how life is and not how it should be, Spirtokouto rebukes the prevailing fatuous, sentimental trend in Greek film, fascinated by sex, lifestyle, hedonism and romance and the imitation of American formulas; and asserts that the most interesting thing about Greece remains the Greeks themselves.

Spirtokouto also suggests a way out of the lyrical tradition that has defined serious Greek film since the 1970s.

Spirtokouto is the antithesis of an Angelopoulos film. Spirtokouto takes place indoors, in a confined space, over a short space of time, with protagonists who aren’t afforded the luxury of an Odyssean journey to escape or work out their alienation but are forced to deal with it in the place where it was created and continues to exist, whose language and emotions are naturalistic, confrontational and raw, functioning on the borders of sanity. Unlike Angelopoulos, in Spirtokouto there are no visionary moments, no imaginative indulgences, no poetic, philosophical or political ideals to be considered or which can be said to shape or motivate consciousness, no poetic reveries, no time for contemplation; silence is not a period of peace or epiphany but tension and danger, and life is inevitably a social condition and event in which solitary experiences, where they exist, are not opportunities for self-becoming but extreme states of alienation.

In the clip, brothers-in-law Dimitris and Giorgos fall out over a proposed business venture and Dimitris’ tardiness in fixing the air-conditioning.


Hermes said...

For some reason I found this scene very sad. Has Oikonomides made other movies?

john akritas said...

Spirtokouto is about human failure – and the failings of Greece as a society, I suppose – so the scene – and the film generally – is sad. The scene – and the film – is also very funny; not that Oikonomidis patronises or feels contempt for his characters – maybe the son. Oikonomidis' second film, from 2006, is called I psychi sto stoma and I don't know anything about it other than what you can read here:

Anonymous said...

sounds interesting, esp since it deals with more 'real' issues about Greece and not the usual romantic B.S that viewers have become accustomed to.

as for Angelopoulos, the guy is still _the_ premier Greek director in my eyes, and nobody even begins to come close. he is in a league of his own.

john akritas said...


I agree with both your points.

Angelopoulos is a genius; but it's good and interesting to see how younger Greek filmmakers are trying to come out of his shadow.