So with some sadness we come to the end of our coverage of this year’s BFI London Film Festival. We had some good times, shared a few laughs and saw a proud mixture of good, average and bad films from across the boards of genre and countries of origin.
Our final review is for Syllas Tzoumerkas’ intense Greek drama ‘A Blast’. The film stars Angeliki Papoulia as Maria. We are introduced to her in the throws of a mass panic as she speeds through the city with her screaming children in tow to drop them off with her sister and quickly be on her way again, but not before threatening her brother-in-law with violence should he touch her kids.
As openings go it’s a gripping one. Up there maybe with the frantic opening to Joe Carnahan’s ‘Narc’. The story’s narrative then jumps back and forth and all over the place. We are shown Maria as a younger woman, all smiles and play fighting with her sister who just moments ago looked like a broken woman. Maria is excepted into law school with a goal to become a liberally minded, equal rights campaigner. All this changes when she meets and falls in love with sailor Yannis (Vassilis Doganis). They begin a passionate and tumultuous relationship bringing on the arrival of two kids and long periods apart as Yannis takes to the ocean. Always hanging over Maria’s head is her invalid mothers small general store which is loosing money and ends up seeing her left with a huge fine after not paying her taxes. Slowly Maria’s world is decimated from the young idealistic days to an existence of constant worry, anger and regret. All until she finally explodes one day.
That’s the relatively linear version of the plot but all is cut and up and told in bite-size chunks which means you have to be paying attention as to where to you are in the story. This trick isn’t anything new but is used to great effective in ‘A Blast’ it keeps the pace brisk and several scenes of happiness are inter cut with moments of real anguish. As with previous festival films ‘Labour of Love’ and ‘The Man in the Orange Jacket’ the state of the economy is the background plot device driving the story. This being a film set in Greece we see how bad things get for everyone around them not least Maria.
Angeliki Papoulia and Yassilis Doganis put in brave performances (read: get naked a lot). Apart from baring all physically they give committed performances that run the gamut of tears of joy to tears of pain. Papoulia particularly stands out in a terrific performance. In a lean run time her Maria believably turns from someone who is ready to take on the world with a love for all those around her into a bitter, angry at everyone for their role in her situation.
Syllas Tzoumerkas film is an intense work that will leave you bewildered, perhaps angry yourself at the world, powerful work.