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Silhouette Recommends – Amerika Square

April 30, 2018

Silhouette members discussed and debated Greek film Amerika Square. Through a poignant collage of parallel subplots of individuals, the film deals with rootlessness and wandering. Silhouette recommends the film.

(dir: Yannis Sakaridis, Greece / UK / Germany, 86 min.)

Recommended by:
Amitava Nag, Anwesha Deb, Diptansu Sengupta, Doelpakhi Dasgupta, Partha Sarathi Raha, Sambaran Sarkar

Things that worked:

Yannis Sakaridis's 'Amerika Square'

Yannis Sakaridis’s ‘Amerika Square’

Amerika Square is a film that deals with a contemporary problem that plagues the world today and has done so repeatedly in the history of civilization. Forceful migration in search of peace, shelter and livelihood has driven human beings across the globe for centuries. If migrating to a distant land in spite of having different languages and culture may offer some hope to the immigrant, for the native locals it means added competition to live a free life and having one’s own choice.

Set in contemporary Greece Amerika Square follows two main characters – a Syrian doctor Tarek who wants to flee Greece and land up in a more prosperous Germany, and Nako who is frustrated by the unavoidable immigrants in his otherwise stale life. There are two more significant characters – Billy, Nako’s childhood friend and a tattoo artist who is the absolute opposite of Nako in mentality and physical appearance. The other important character is Tereza who is a ‘coloured’ woman singer in a bar and like Tarek who wishes to fly away from Greece.

Yannis Sakaridis's 'Amerika Square still

Tarek, the Syrian doctor looking in dismay as his chances of leaving Greece are thwarted

The content of the film appeals to the Silhouette members for its honest confessions – more so for presenting Nako’s perspective as well which more-often-than-not remains unheard. The agility and the modernist form of filmography were liked by Partha for whom the camera and background scores worked well but to a level only.

Yannis Sakaridis's Amerika Square - Billy and Tereza

Billy and Tereza speed away but remain confined within the streets of Athens unable to escape it

For Sambaran the backdrop of the film was particularly enchanting even though the subject at a broad level had nothing new. He liked the tango like musical structure which he felt was consistent through the film and acted as an important character as well.

Diptansu reflected on the personalization of the global immigrant issues that are plaguing most of the world today. For him the film threw up an interesting conflicting definition of the ‘boundary’ – Tarek who has lost his home now doesn’t believe in the accepted definition of boundary, rather he thinks that boundaries between nations are just another means of earning money and survival. On the other hand, for Nako, whose home is getting ‘changed’, the importance of boundaries to segregate is paramount. The cyclicality of the world’s political situation where cause and effect are indispensably interlinked and interchangeable made the film captivating, Partha felt.

Doelpakhi loved the docu-feature format of the film where three constant voice-overs by three characters depict and enrich the content of it. As the film progresses the perspectives change as the characters go through the different experiences. She was intimidated by Nako’s transformation from a lovable buffoon to a cold-blooded murderer. Interestingly Nako’s parents become increasingly silent as they come to terms with this realization. He is not a villain per say, he is immensely real, an average person who is continuously pushed to the brink by a never-ending competition called ‘life’. For Doelpakhi the film showed a slice of truth of our everyday existence as a global citizen. It was unsettling for her since she felt that she could have been any of the major characters in the film.

Anwesha liked the film’s pace and the opposite mental transformations of Nako and Billy as the film progressed. She also loved the seeming open-endedness of the film which left the audience thinking if Nako will poison the immigrants one more time or not.

Diptansu, thought that the use of tattoo was symbolic – the pain of removing a tattoo as portrayed in the film could be compared with the pain of the geographical and cultural uprooting refugees have to endure worldwide.

Amitava, like Diptansu pondered on the use of tattoo as a symbol – how Nako even if he has everything needs a tattoo in the end to emphasize his identity whereas Tereza wishes her tattoo to be removed as she tries to forget her current identity in search of a new one. Amitava also reflected on Tereza – a person whose colour and gender automatically marginalized her in the traditional patriarchal mode. Does she represent the unspecified audience?

Yannis Sakaridis's Amerika Square - Nako

Nako gets a tattoo done on his arm in a bid to re-establish his identity

Things that didn’t work

Anwesha felt that the film was predictable at parts specially one of the climactic moments when Nako’s mother eats the poisoned bread and becomes ill to be treated by Tarek.  To Partha, the character of Billy was not developed to its fullest potential. The self-sacrificial stance in the end seemed superficial to him. Also, apart from Tarek’s the voice-overs of the other characters appeared redundant to Partha just as the top shots of the square.

The pacy form of the film which Anwesha liked was not something Partha approved wholly. The sharp cuts in the edit, the almost MTV-style discreet cuts and a consistently dark tone of the film’s colourscape didn’t work well with him either. He felt that somewhere the form and content didn’t go along well.

Sambaran agreed partially in the fact that the editing could have been sleeker given the tango-like musical structure of the film’s soundscape. In relation to this Sambaran felt that the film lacked silence and there was always too much of sound or dialogues. He also expected that since the characters were non-English speaking in general their different, affected accents could be used as an interesting soundscape.

Diptansu felt that the film became repetitive after a while assuming that the initial crises were established fairly quickly. To him, like Partha, Billy seemed to be a bit redundant in the end unless the character was further developed.

Doelpakhi didn’t like the arty execution of the film which had an otherwise important and significant content. The art direction in particular was short of expectations considering the fact that the film was shot in Athens. There was almost no usage of the magnificent historical monuments and architecture of Athens which could have depicted the social and political changes more effectively. She also found the name ‘Amerika Square’ a bit superfluous and contrived.

Parts of the film that will be remembered

Diptansu remembered the growing silence of Nako’s parents as if they have been muted by the atrocity of their son’s thought process. He also liked the mellifluous background notes when Billy confronts Nako at the base of the staircase following the accidental poisoning of the latter’s mother.

Yannis Sakaridis's Amerika Square - Billy and Nako

Billy confronts Nako at the base of the staircase after the accidental poisoning of Nako’s mother

Doelpakhi loved the usage of light, shade and darkness inside Billy’s tattoo shop. She also loved the character of Tereza. The one touching moment for her was when the photographer refused to take money from Tarek after handing him with passport photographs and learning that he was from Syria – as if not all hope wasn’t lost for Tarek and the rootless people of the world.

Partha liked Tarek’s monologues and also the poignant scene of him outside the airport when he was thwarted entry. That montage of Tarek was one that Sambaran liked as well. He further liked the tango music at the end of the film and during the rolling of the end credits.

Sambaran remembered one tracking shot of the trees from the inside of the bus that took Tarek to the seaside in an attempt to cross-over to Germany. The landscape of the seaside port in a top shot was liked by Anwesha. She also liked the montage where Tereza’s singing was repetitively cut and mixed with the present situation of the other main characters – this lends itself to the very pace of the film.

Yannis Sakaridis's Amerika Square - Nako moves

Like Billy and Tereza, Nako also moves around endlessly but with less speed, this time his face has a rare illumination

Amitava found significance in the repeating shots of Nako going rounds in the city in his scooter. In the end scroll the wandering image of Nako is returned but now his face appeared to be illuminated from Sun’s reflection on it from his scooter’s mirror. Amitava found it pleasantly coincidental and inherently dark comedy to have the name of the shop in Chinatown market from where Tarek and Tereza set off as ‘New World’.

The other texts (films or otherwise) which come to mind watching this

Tarek’s rootlessness and his continuous drifting is a universal image of the film. One definitely gets reminded of Ritwik Kumar Ghatak’s films on the Indian partition. Diptansu remembered Roma and thought that the modern day crises and emotional conflicts could have been portrayed using the ancient sculptures of Athens as background. Doelpakhi thought of Pinjar and Amitava of Babel and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Billy’s character resembled Rick Blaine’s of the classic Casanova for Anwesha. But she also thought that unlike the classic, this film became pretentious in the end.

Silhouette rating: 6.8/10

Content: 4/5
Cinematography: 3/5
Sound: 3.6/5
Overall Appeal: 6.5/10

More to read

Silhouette Recommends – Milk (Sut)

Silhouette Recommends – Paterson

Silhouette Recommends – On Body and Soul

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