The Greek New Wave is characterized by emotional impotence. Stiffness, distance, coolness, being mechanical, whatever we call it, this inability to communicate with another human being and a deep sense of alienation are fundamental to contemporary Greek cinema, with Yorgos Lanthimos at the helm. It was expected from Moon, 66 Questions, a feature length debut from Jacqueline Lentzou, who grew up on Lanthimos’ tradition, to duplicate the well-known scheme of a deeply ironic, black, Greek comedy. And although it is impossible to hide the emotional tropes native to the director, the scheme is broken with a breath of fresh air.
Paris is sick and is no longer able to function independently. After many years of separation, his only daughter, Artemis, returns to Athens. For both her and her father, it will be an opportunity to come to terms with the past and get to know each other better than ever before. In a cinema where it is so difficult to find a common language, Artemis and Paris are able to experience it in a family trauma – in a not very pleasant parenting memories (countered only by half-forgotten, family VHS recordings where the current roles of the characters are reversed – it was Paris who looked after Artemis when she was a child), but mostly through the new responsibilities forced by fate and the indifference of the rest of the family, refusing to help.
Lentzou breaks the seemingly impossible emotional barrier between the heroes with the key of shared meals. They make emotions possible – both positive, like laughs, and negative ones, sadness, regret. It is the presence of a social convention, natural for both father and daughter, that enables them to find a common language. Though Artemis might look away, get up and walk away from the table, she stays with her father, held with a bond, being reborn anew.
The young Greek director is far from Lanthimos’ misanthropy. Instead of irony and a gloomy portrait of the poor human condition, Lentzou seeks a way of understanding her characters, even if the task should prove impossible. Moon, 66 Questions is closer in this respect to the humanism of the Japanese New Wave, where one hug in the film is so rich in emotions that one looks at it with one’s heart in one’s mouth, than to Greek black comedy.
Moon, 66 Questions is not a complicated film and it does not have to be one to be effective. Where Lanthimos would take away any possibility of communication from his heroes, Lentzou leaves the possibility open – perhaps it is still not too late to try to understand each other. A perfect summary of the young Greek director’s film is the hit from 1982, accompanying the end credits, Words don’t come easy by F. R. David. ♫ How can I find a way to make you see I love you? ♫