Dir: Wri/Dir: Steve Krikris | Cast: Aris Servetalis, Yannis Stankoglou, Chiara Gensini, Alexandros Mavropoulos, Antonis Myriagos | Drama, Greece, 93′
This deliciously dark and sardonic Neo-noir sees a lonely waiter fall prey to a ménage à trois that throws a spanner into his ordered life in modern day Athens.
Steve Krikis has already won a string of awards for his stylish Greek new wave debut, a crisply captured, elegantly framed affair that unfurls in an upmarket quartier of Greece’s capital. Beautifully balanced like a tray of martini cocktails and tinted with the same olive hue, it follows the day to day existence of plant lover and bar employee Reno (Aris Servetalis) whose routine is meticulously laid out in the opening scenes: the comfortable black leather shoes are polished; the white shirt pressed and pristine, the glossy black hair slicked black and ready for business. Every day follows the same pattern for his work in one of the oldest establishments in the city.
Then one evening while emptying the rubbish Renos finds a dismembered body the dumpster. And recognises it as his neighbour, Milan (Antonis Myriagos). The following night in the corridor of his modernist block he bumps into the neighbour opposite, a be-spectacled man with a leonine shock of red hair, known as “The Blond” (Yannis Stankoglou) who invites him in for dinner, a dinner which starts suspiciously with enormous pieces of osso buco (braised calf bone) followed by beef bourguignon. Renos is naturally alarmed. And from then on he becomes a sort of undercover detective enthralled by this macabre man and his surreptitious comings and goings. And so do we.
Deadly, dialogue light and mostly silent, apart from a bewitching soundtrack, The Waiter is an enthralling and seductive story that says as much about Renos as a character as it does about the enigmatic Blond, and his discretely unwilling female companion Tzina (Chiara Gensini). Clearly their perplexingly teasing relationship presses buttons for Renos in the sexual department, or lack of it. Renos also starts to question his own rather vacuous existence while wondering whether the couple are accomplices to a murder, and if he is the next victim. One particularly beguiling scene is set in an Athens dawn in a beautiful outdoor temple where Renos comes across Tzina suffering a bout of hiccups. He tries to explain to Tzina the medical reason for hiccups and she asks him if he’s always so calm. “Don’t you ever get scared” she says. Renos replies: “Fear disrupts the will”. Clearly he is a self-contained man with hidden depths, practising the art of being “in the now”. For the moment.
But ‘the now’ soon unravels for Renos as his placid routine gradually becomes destabilised by his sinister new friends. And the compelling denouement offers a surprise in a sultry wooded area at dusk, captured sumptuously on the widescreen by DoP Giorgos Karvelas whose immaculate camerawork has made this something of a visual treat. And we are left to contemplate the humdrum nature of everyday life. Often a desperate wish for change, can also ruin the status quo forever . MT
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL | 18 – 28 SEPTEMBER 2019