Animal (2023) Locarno Film Festival 2023

August 4th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Sofia Exarchou | Greece, Drama 116′

Greek director Sofia Exarchou’s second film takes place in a family hotel in an unknown Greek Island where dancer Kalia ((Dimitra Vlagopoulou)) is doing her best to inject some fun in the rather joyless atmosphere in her capacity as an “animateur” choreographing stage shows to enthuse holiday-makers.

Looking after a young family and satisfying her partner is an exhausting business but Kalia always switches on the charm and an electric smile for the tourists and encourages her new recruits to do the same to cover versions of ‘Yes Sir I can Bougie’ and other soulless hits. But when Eva (Flomaria Papadaki) arrives Kalia sees a reflection of her younger self in the young girl’s enthusiasm and willingness to shine in a gruelling diurnal activity that feels like hard work, the muscular stresses and strains reflected in Monika Lenczewska’s close-up camerawork.

Exarchou takes a documentary approach to reflect the sheer physical grind of Kalia’s daily existence but there is dark humour too in a similar vein to Ulrich Seidl’s seaside satire Rimini .Although the Austrian filmmaker goes further down the route of lampooning his hero.

The need to be upbeat and bubbly is no mean feat when dealing with a public that is often sluggish: they’ve come on holiday for a relaxing break but also want some fun while getting fit and healthy before they return to their home environment. But Kalia too needs to get away from the forced bonhomie of her paid employment and needs to have a break of her own. And that’s when the going gets challenging in this perceptive look behind the scenes of the holiday entertainment industry. MT




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