Netflix is one of the few streaming services that offers a platform and investment in movies and TV shows produced in virtually every region of the world. Its catalog includes a very wide variety of Danish, Spanish, Italian and French shows and films, for example. In addition to the great French erotic thriller Without limitsthis year Netflix released one of the best French movies produced by them, and for some reason it didn’t get the attention it so dutifully deserves.
Athena is a French political film. The story is brilliantly directed by Romain Gravas, who has created a show on modern issues in just 90 minutes. He is the son of the famous director Costa-Gavras, also known for his socio-political films. Romain co-wrote Athena with filmmaker Ladj Ly, known for his Oscar-nominated and Cannes-winning film in 2019 Wretched. The film starts off with a punch and doesn’t let the audience glide through this story without feeling everything the characters are going through. Athena is an immersive experience in a violent and cruel world that is unfortunately a reality for various people.
Athena begins right after a boy is killed by the police, and the video of the murder goes viral. One of the boy’s brothers, Abdel (Dali Benssalah), who is in the army, explains that the police are attacking people in the video. At the same time, his other brother Karim (Sami Slimane) arrives at the press conference, and he has different means to take revenge for the death of his little brother. From that point on, it’s a violent chase and escape between this broken family and the police.
Romain Gavras directs Athena
Romain Gavras has created a narrative that could be compared to a Greek tragedy, which is only enhanced by the building complex that bears the name of the goddess of wisdom, Athena. The manager told the irish time that he grew up on Greek tragedies, not Disney movies. Its defeatist story about violence and family is reinforced by every incredible shot, most of which seem like long sequences with barely a cut. These sequences force the audience to hold their breath in anticipation of what might happen, just so they can breathe for a second, that is, until the next sequence begins. This, combined with the handheld camera technique that is present for most of the film, makes the viewer feel like they are running through the building complex alongside these characters.
Athena has a very clever use of cinematography. As night falls, flames, flares and smoke fill the screen against the dark backdrop of the sky, creating a mighty and beautiful world at war. Each decision really created the dark universe that the story is trying to convey. Gavras was able to reinforce every anger and sadness these characters feel by the way he shot the film. It is undoubtedly one of his finest works.
A human story
Initially, what first grabs the audience’s attention is the fast-paced story and the violence, but what holds it all together and really makes the film so great is the emotional rawness of the grief that lurks beneath every action of the main characters. The sense of family, loss, and hate that has come from being ignored and brutalized for far too long is conveyed incredibly well by the main cast’s superb acting.
Athena is above all a human story. The characters and their deeply-set goals of how to move forward after the loss of a brother are what give the film depth and elevate it beyond a normal thriller. The times when they are alone, when their grief becomes too hard to hide, is where the film connects with the audience. It was also fundamental that there is a policeman who has a family that serves to humanize the police, showing that everyone has a lot to lose, not just the protagonists.
Athena is a harrowing journey to watch and is the type of film that sticks with the viewer for some time after the movie ends. The audience doesn’t get long dialogues expressing how the characters feel, but that’s not necessary. Their bold and dangerous actions to seek some kind of relief are enough.
Athena is a necessary watch
Athena should get more recognition than it has so far. Not only is it beautiful to watch and the family drama involved is incredibly moving, but there are some very current themes that the film tackles. The main narrative of the film deals with xenophobia and religious bias (particularly by far-right groups) and the results of police brutality. And, in the case of Athenaa kid.
Be careful, even if these problems are the basis of the film, they are not explored in depth. They could be seen as a backstory that the filmmaker decided not to delve deep into the cause but the consequence. grave said The Guardian,“My favorite movies are the visual movies where you don’t get a message. You get emotions through the power of images.” It’s a perfect way to describe the political war that is Athena.
So if you’re looking for a fresh perspective on these issues, or a movie that dutifully discusses them and didactically tells you what to think, this isn’t it. Athena focuses on what happens when a group of people have had enough and decide to take matters into their own hands. It depicts the consequences of issues that audiences already have extensive knowledge of, as they are happening all over the world at an alarming rate.