Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, about three adult children unwittingly trapped by their parents in a totalitarian alternate universe in their suburban family home, had a bratty spark to it, which went a long way. This type of in-your-face energy is notably missing—but not necessarily missed—from his latest effort. ALPS, concerning a quartet of “substitutes” who impersonate the recently deceased as a service to help their loved ones grieve, is as patently absurd at the story level as Dogtooth’s parable of closed social systems. But the world Lanthimos presents here is stylistically staid (natural light, minimal music), which lends his characters’ stunt-like behavior a disquieting realism. Much less reliant than Dogtooth on the midnight movie kicks of gore, shock sex, and comic relief, ALPS is the more difficult, more devastating depiction of the loneliness of a proscribed life and role-playing as a self-destructive solution.


Dogtooth was last year’s most shocking Oscar nominee, an outlier that defied conventional wisdom to sneak into the Foreign Language race. Does the fact that TIFF 2011 ended without anointing an Oscar champ to beat mean that the wisdom is changing? Probably not, but it is sort of nice to not know in September exactly what’s going to happen in February.

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