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Two-thirds of the way into this experimental Greek docu-fiction, one of the wandering souls featured – apparently watching footage from the film – loses his rag. “This is not about birds. It’s about us being crazy as loons. Come on Babis, I’m a customer here, too, I need to understand.” With director Babis Makridis showing all the confrontational strangeness of the Greek new wave here, the exasperation is understandable.
What Makridis has cobbled together is a poetic and initially utopian manifesto for self-liberation inspired by Aristophanes’ play The Birds, in which a king transforms into a hoopoe. In nine chapters with titles such as “Find your voice” and “Take off, land”, Makridis quizzes the characters in poker-faced interview setups about their hopes of becoming birds, and observes these avian wannabes as they make strange fluttering calls on urban streets and roam stark landscapes in search of their inspiration, “Mr Hoopoe” – all intercut with performance excerpts from Aristophanes. The precise significance of all this remains up in the clouds with the aerobatic planes he marvels at; although the assemblage starts to drum up an almost shamanistic mania as people perfect their bespoke bird caws and incant against a lightning-blasted cityscape. Perhaps the lack of easy graspability is trying to jar us into a similar consciousness shift, to get modern society soaring above its current disillusionment.
Whether this utopia is psychological or social, it quickly recedes; the mood darkens. Makridis takes us to a grillhouse to illustrate lines from Aristophanes about the indignities visited on birds. “Then they stuff their entire hands into your innards, and they tear out your heart, your spleen and your little liver.” Someone rants about avian aspirations offending the gods. By this point, Makridis’s melding of his elements has become a bit lumpen, and his own self-referential cameo in the film after a cast member complains – breaking the generally forthright mood – seems almost an admission he is losing control of his message. This metamorphosis is only semi-achieved.
• Birds (Or How to Be One) is on Mubi from 8 February.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Birds (Or How to Be One) review – flighty avian-themed drama-doc | Film