A Blast – Sarajevo 20
Syllas Tzoumerkas’ sophomore feature is a powerful sociopolitical drama that juxtaposes the cynicism of the troubled Greek society while the middle-class decays internally.
During the past years Greek cinema has become a new favorite for the international film festivals and that is of course quite reasonable. On one hand there is the justified curiosity towards the political situation in Greece and on the other hand a plethora of emerging directors who want and need to speak about their generation. Syllas Tzoumerkas belongs to those directors whose work has been highly affected by the current political, social and economic situation. Four years after his debut feature film Homeland (Hora Proelefsis / Χώρα Προέλευσης, 2010), Tzoumerkas delivers his sophomore work A Blast. The film had its regional premiere during the 20th Sarajevo Film Festival and participated at the Official Competition.
Maria (Angeliki Papoulia) lives in Athens; she is mother of three and married to Yiannis (Vassilis Doganis) who works abroad as a captain. Her everyday life and her decisions have always been affected by her family. Maria has usual conflicts with her paralytic mother (Themis Bazaka) and her father (Giorgos Biniaris). Her bad relationships with her sister Gogo (Maria Filini) will be worsened after her marriage with far-right garbage man Costas (Makis Papadimitriou). Everything in their little world seems to be on the edge of collapse since the fights and the problems never stop. When Maria has to deal with her mother’s unknown debts then their minimal existing balance will be totally destroyed and everything will fall apart. It is now Maria’s turn to decide about herself and her life.
A Blast could be considered as a true follow-up of Tzoumerkas debut Homeland. The director, who co-wrote the screenplay with Youla Boudali, now presents his ideas in a more articulated and accurate way. As in Homeland he follows a fast paced and fragmented narration that offers a unique impact to the viewer both visually and emotionally. The story which is told in a non-chronological order gives a full portrait of Maria’s life during the past ten years. The constant flashbacks help the viewer to justify her current situation, her thoughts and her final decision. Everything starts from the forced abandonment of her studies in Athens Law School in order to work at the family’s owned shop and since that she needs to become a true part of her family routine, she needs to become one of them. Instead of that, Maria feels and is abandoned by everyone. She can’t find comfort inside her family as she is in charge of the shop and has to run everything because she can’t trust anyone else. She is also emotionally isolated since her husband is almost never present and their relationship continues almost exclusively online. Her sister goes further apart after her marriage to a Golden Dawn supporter. Maria’s isolation could be easily juxtaposed to the real isolation of every vivid cell in today’s Greek society. She must be sacrificed for her family’s commonweal. Inevitably her self-destructiveness is just the result of her inherited troubles and she feels and acts as the true victim of this situation.
Tzoumerkas is using Maria’s character in a highly symbolical role as she could incarnate all those dreadful fragments of everybody’s life in the contemporary Greek reality. It is a common feeling that literally there is no safe place around you. The Family who has always been considered as the crest of society’s stability and serenity is now becoming dangerous and the core of all true problems. Nowadays the enemy who could destroy you isn’t some foreign and exterior threat but exists so close to you. The economic crisis has been just the spark that put in flames those fragile relationships and since no one can really stand closely next to each other, they could easily be burned. It is a fact that during a crisis everyone exposes his true self. Nothing can stay secret anymore, the political ideologies, the sexual necessities, the social interactions even the deepest personal needs and thoughts should be approached through a rough materialistic filter. Everything is deteriorating. Tzoumerkas is trying to fight in many fronts and to deal with every aspect of the society that suffocates him and his generation. Sometimes the battle seems uneven and uncontrollable since it is not easy to be present and expose everything at once. This is not necessarily a disadvantage because the viewer can feel and be exposed to the same turmoil of information and emotions as Maria does. Like her, everyone is looking for an escape but no one seems determined to choose his own fate and change his destiny. Could the fear conquer them all or is Maria an example to be followed?
A Blast is a powerful impactful sociopolitical drama that could haunt the viewer’s emotions and thoughts after the screening. Tzoumerkas without losing his edgy approach of today’s economic situation in the country tries to detect what would be its aftermaths. For that reason he decides to jump into the crisis’ paroxysm by throwing all the garbage on the unblemished and sacred Greek family lunch and he simply asks if someone could set them on fire. Inevitably the flames will burn everything around them and their first victim should be a middle-class Family/Society in decay. The closer the viewer can get to this fire the easier it will touch and affect him.