B Indescribable

  • Written by Giorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
  • Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos

I’m not exactly sure what to make of Alps. It has just enough continuity to make you try and follow the story, but there’s no story to follow. Many of the characters (primarily the female ones) seem sympathetic, yet their motivations and actions are usually opaque. There’s absolutely no mention of politics or government, but I think it was about totalitarianism.

And yet, it was often utterly compelling and strangely funny.

The name refers to a club that the main characters belong to. What kind of club? I’m not sure. One man is definitely the leader. He gives the club its name, arguing that no other mountain in the world can replace one of the alps, although any alp could replace any other mountain. He tells everyone to pick a mountain for their new name. He, of course, names himself Mont Blanc, after the highest one.

The principle character, I think, is a nurse who works in a hospital. She’s empathetic and kind, but behaves in odd ways. For instance, when a young tennis player dies in the hospital, she spends time with the deceased girl’s parents and encourages them to let her pretend to be their daughter.

At times, the characters seem to be intentionally acting something out, and not quite believing what they’re doing. Before sex, a man instructs the nurse to say “Don’t stop! It feels like heaven!” When she says “Don’t stop! It feels like paradise,” he stops to correct her.

Orders are arbitrary and ridiculous, but enforced with threats of violence or the real thing.

I often found myself laughing, yet unsure about doing so. Judging from what I heard around me, so did others. I’m pretty sure in retrospect that we were supposed to laugh, although it was a given that, at any moment, a laugh would die in our throats from something horrible.

I’m not sure what Lanthimos intended. Whatever it is, I don’t think he succeeded. There are several boring stretches. But most of the time, it’s an interesting and intentionally funny.

I saw Alps at the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival. It opens Friday at the Roxie.