It would be an absolute treat if a film like Kinetta, the 2005 solo directorial debut of Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos, could be written about and reviewed with the same kind of disregard for expectations or conventions on display throughout its often frustrating running time. The withheld dialogue and plot from the Greek picture might roughly equate to omitting the review's usual synopsis section or even the opinion portion. The shaky handheld camera work that goes out of focus at times would be like the writer intentionally using incorrect grammar and creating new words. Hesitancy to placate with easy explanations resembles a withholding of a score to represent the writer's opinion (that he or she ideally should've expressed in word form already). A crazy, diabolically arrogant concept? Not something most people would want to experience? I'm projecting a little, perhaps, and only one of the two, if done well, would comfortably be considered art. Regardless, theoretically applying a principle of sorts being played with by Lanthimos in Kinetta across different platforms is a test of tolerance and a fair indicator of whether one might appreciate the film.
To "get" Kinetta the viewer has to be somewhat adventurous and open to obscurity in cinema. Many of the very things we might love about movies - the supposed givens of cinema - are defiantly absent here. Indeed, it's a far easier movie to hate than to love. Without elements as typical as characters speaking to one another, an obvious plot or a reliably steady camera, the film is ripe for dissent. As wonderfully strange as Dogtooth is, even it is hardly a litmus test for what Lanthimos made directly before it. Only from having watched Dogtooth (and its less heralded but equally audacious follow-up Alps) can there be some calming sense of confidence that the filmmaker behind Kinetta has at least a semblance of method to his madness. Otherwise it could seem to go either way. Amateurish masquerading as art or art masquerading as amateurish? Certainly not one and the same.
Let's, for those still eager or defiant (or, as would be completely understandable, trusting in the reputation of this disc's label Second Run), lay out a few things which might or might not help the prospective viewer. A little knowledge going in to this film is hardly a bad thing. Firstly, it takes place in the Greek resort town of the title. There's a depressive quality being emitted from the setting. It should be a destination people visit to vacation and relax but the sense is more akin to a decades-old hotel that was never renovated. Everything, top to bottom, feels used. Three main characters come together to occasionally reenact murders. One is a photographer, one's a cop and the third works as a maid at a hotel. Lanthimos skillfully shades in sad little details about each throughout the picture, enough so that they begin to feel like three-dimensional creations in a somewhat two-dimensional world.
The seeming plot, concerning the shared interest the three have with recreating homicides, is perhaps more intriguing on paper than it ever becomes on screen. The opportunity for anything traditional is discarded or intentionally unrealized. That same style of bone-dry humor seen in Dogtooth applies here. But maybe it all comes off as sadder in Kinetta, as the purposefully withheld emotions of one or two of the characters wrecks any sense of balance. Nothing offsets the uncomfortable strangeness exhibited. More often than not we're simply left looking at poorly framed and/or shakily photographed strangers with whom we cannot possibly relate. Combining the dourness of the Dardennes and the deadpan of Kaurismakï may not be a fair or accurate assessment of Kinetta but I do know that it's not something I'd particularly advise one to attempt.
In comparison to Dogtooth and Alps, this film feels even rougher to digest. Its edges are far less smooth, making for both a disorienting external quality and the more expected unusual dynamic at play inside the movie itself. All of Lanthimos' films to date carry a somewhat alien perspective, as though they were made by a person not of this world who lacks a basic understanding of human behavior. And that's generally wonderful. It's just that, in this case, the method is a little more crude and distant than what might be ideal.
The really great thing about this UK release from Second Run is that it is apparently the first time Kinetta has been made available on any home video format worldwide. That's hardly insignificant. The region-free DVD is easily deserving of a look from all interested parties.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen televisions, the film's transfer registers well enough here. It does show some mild speckles of dirt early on but these seem to dissipate as the picture progresses. Video quality on the whole is more than acceptable without ever reaching enormous heights. Colors are maybe a little dull but that's unlikely to be a consequence of anything on the technical side of this release.
Audio is available in a Greek language stereo 2.0 soundtrack. Sounds emerge cleanly, without struggle. There's little dialogue, and it's neatly subtitled in English.
There's a notable on-disc special feature here in the post-screening interview and Q&A with director Yorgos Lanthimos recorded at London's Tate Modern. While not brimming with insight into the specifics of this particular film, it does shed some light on Lanthimos as an artist, for those who might be curious. A solid 12-page booklet can also be found inside the DVD case. It contains an essay by Michael Ewins that initially discusses the recent (and possibly non-existent) "Greek Weird Wave" and then delves more into Kinetta for a few pages near the end.