By Mónica Delgado
Dead Europe is a hard novel by the Greek Australian Christos Tsiolkas, adapted by Tony Krawitz in a suggestive manner. The filmmaker takes the second part from the book and changes the places for ones more suitable in order to portray a powerful cartography, an archetype of the Europe that he sees dying. From Melbourne to Athens, Paris to Budapest, these cities mark the route for the protagonist, the photographer Isaac (Ewen Leslie), to discover some family secrets that have a lot to do with the trauma of the Second World War.
Dead Europe (Australia, UK, 2012), uses topics of crisis and decadence seen through European eyes: migration and illegality, slavery, drug dealing, prostitution, poverty. They all mark the setting for the protagonist’s mood, who leaves his country to determine his father’s cause of death. When he visits his family home in the Greek mountains, he discovers that the entire town hates them for carrying a less than holy past, with anti-Semitic roots. The ghost of that hatred follows Isaac through several places like a chain of guilt, the reason for which he seeks obscurantist techniques that go against his agnosticism. Krawitz turns to the thriller to build this series of clues that will lead the protagonist from one place to another, in which decadence and poverty become more evident, achieving a damned physiognomy of the old continent, drunk with evil.
The film has an international cast, due to the necessity of the story, in which Francoise Lebrun, the memorable actress from Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore is more than interesting, playing the role of a Dutch woman who lives in Paris. Besides that, the scenes of Athens in Dead Europe were filmed in days of the ongoing manifestations of the Greek crisis, which give a documentary halo to the spirit of chaos.
Despite some commonplace themes, like evoking multi-national cinema with cosmopolitan contexts as a synonym of migrants, delinquency, violence and drug addiction, Krawits achieves a film with force and suspense, which is passionate in this almost obscene tale that both evokes and avoids to translate from the book (a novel that carries the “dooms” of Henry Miller or Lautreamont) and that includes a lot of disappointment overall.