When people ask about Dogtooth I often cite the cinematography of the film as ‘clinical’, but after seeing Attenberg – a film that works more effectively in the same stylistic space as Dogtooth – I realized that visual sense is more informed by nature documentary. The title of Athina Rachel Tsangari’s second feature derives from one of the main character’s mispronunciation of famed nature documentarian David Attenborough’s name, which acts as a roadmap for how to take in the absurdist actions and phonetically driven dialogue of the film. The one-line for Attenberg could be very simple – a woman comes of age sexually as her father passes away – but Tsangari displays Marina (the protagonist) as an alien being among mammals, allowing the normally inherent melodrama of this situation to be nonexistent. Marina (played wonderfully by Ariane Labed) seems more content to observe than engage, but when she does interact with others characters they most truly express themselves with actions. The actual dialogue is less important than how it is said; word games, sound, and physical elements of interaction tell more about a scene than what the characters say. This allows Attenberg a sense of humor that would feel uncomfortable in Dogtooth, strengthening the frank, savage approach to drama mastered by this crop of Greek filmmakers.
Bottom Line: Attenberg is a perfect film, as far as I am concerned: the acting is superb, the cinematography gorgeous, the drama palpable but not cheap, and the New Wave/absurdist interludes fully humanize the characters. Dogtooth is printed all over this film’s style, Giorgos Lanthimos even makes his acting debut in a small but important role, yet through awkwardness and humility Attenberg invites the viewer to empathize with the alienation we only observed in Lanthimos’ film.