Isaac Raftis (Ewen Leslie) is a troubled man with an uncertain future, whose family has a very murky past. When the chance arises to travel to Athens for work, Isaac takes the opportunity to explore the country of his origin; and while doing so discovers his family’s unspoken past. Review of Dead Europe after the jump.
Isaac is an Australian-born Greek photographer who seems to lack motivation and direction – there is no spark in his current work or in his daily life. Soon after his father dies, Isaac accepts an invitation to exhibit some of his worth in Athens, taking with him his father’s ashes scatter. Upon travelling to Europe and his father’s village in mountainous Greece, Isaac slowly begins to unravel a past which his family fled to Australia to escape. As Isaac further explores Europe, the past increasingly haunts him, and despite using drugs and sex to distract himself, he is unable to ignore the ghosts which he has released.
Based on the novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, Dead Europe is both a dark and look into the hidden past of one Australian-Greek family, and also the destructive life of one man who is unable to find his path. Isaac is a disturbed man who uses drugs and sex to ease the pain, or perhaps to cause it? His explorations in Europe are quite difficult to watch, as the disturbing past he slowly discovers only causes him to self-destruct further.
The use of the locations in this film is incredible – this is not a romantic look at Europe’s most beautiful cities; instead we are introduced to the gritty underworld, the grimy side of cities where pain often rules and history is ever-present. The photography is particularly impressive, with the dull, cold colour palette mirroring Issac’s mood and the darkness of the past; while the music further enhances the dark atmosphere of the unsettling film.
While the construction of the film is difficult to fault, the adaptation of the novel to the screen does have some issues. The story jumps from event to event quite quickly, and it doesn’t always feel like the developments have been earned. At only 84 minutes, the film could easily have been 20 minutes longer, enabling it to flesh out some of the ideas and plot developments that it rushed through, or left out of the film all together.
Dead Europe is not an easy watch – it’s grim, confronting and at times quite disturbing. However in a country where most of us have origins somewhere else, there is a lot to appreciate in Isaac’s journey and struggles with the past.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Tony Krawitz
Writer(s): Louise Fox, Christos Tsiolkas (novel)
Starring: Ewen Leslie, Marton Csokas, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Runtime: 84 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: November 15 2012