After the failure of his insufferable last film “Dogtooth,” Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos refines his minimalist approach to absurdist satire. However confounding on first blush, “Alps” is a provocative think piece about the nature of loss, memory, DIY psychotherapy, and emotional fulfillment.
Inside an empty gymnasium, a group of four hands-on therapists — a nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast, and her coach — take turns practicing to act as surrogates for recently deceased people, whose personalities they will mimic during visitations with bereaved family members. The group name themselves “Alps.” They take their work very seriously. This is piecemeal method acting gone wild.
The talented ribbon gymnast (Ariane Labed) pleads with her coach (Johnny Vekris) to allow her to dance to modern music.
The stern coach snaps back, “You’re not ready for pop.” Such humorous jabs crackle.
"Raise your voice at me again," he says calmly, "and I'll take a club and crack your head open. And then I'll break your arms and your legs."
An uncomfortable strain of father-daughter substitution runs through their relationship. The film’s glacial sense of humor comes in a glass of ice-cold water.
The nurse (Aggeliki Papoulia) loses herself too much in her work. Monte Rosa — as she calls herself — starts to carry out her own freelance proxy work to satisfy an emotional void. The coach also crosses a line of emotional sharing in his encounters with clients; isn't that what method acting is all about?
“Alps” is a backhanded commentary on the ways in which people exploit chosen occupations to fulfill personal fantasies. It also refers to the fetishized aspects of relationships and their limited scope of sexual necessity. Anyone can be a surrogate.
Not Rated. 90 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)