The rather oddly titled L (probably a reference to the ‘L’ plates that learner drivers have to display on their cars), directed by Greek filmmaker Babis Makridis has more than a little in common with the 2009 cult hit Dogtooth. It was co-written by the same co-writer, Efthymis Filippou and makes use of the same cinematographer, Thimios Bakatakis. Because of this, the film shares two of the best key elements of Dogtooth – its surrealistic originality and its innovative camera work.
L tells the tale of a man who lives in his car. He is estranged from his wife and children who live in a separate car. When they meet, they do so in parking lots. This is a world that revolves around transport. If people aren’t in a car, then they are stood waiting for a car. The man is a professional driver who delivers jars of honey for a living. One day, he loses his job to a younger driver after making too many late deliveries and is thrown into existential uncertainty. He decides to abandon “car life” and join a rogue motorbike gang.
L is a thought provoking film that has a natural (rather than forced or lofty) philosophical sensibility. We get the feeling throughout that there is more to this world than meets the eye and we are met with a deluge of abstract metaphors – To drive or to travel is to live. Life inside a car is conformity to the norm. An existence eked out in a wedge between grey roads and tedious journeys. Here Honey is not just a commodity but a spiritual symbol of wealth and prosperity. And although this may seem extremely odd, the analogies are presented in a way that makes them feel very normal and easily relatable. An abundance of static shots create an atmosphere that is both claustrophobic and intimate. The acting performances are impressive too and resonate emotionally in a very genuine way.
The film isn’t all po-faced sociological analysis either, it has a very noticeable sense of humour throughout and although the humour is so dry it’s practically desiccated, it’s also very funny. In fact, this is probably the film’s most attractive aspect – above everything, it’s a dark comedy at heart. There are also moments of true poignancy. A scene where the father is teaching his son to drive whilst he is sat on his lap is extremely touching and warm.
The film is let down somewhat by slow, languid pacing and to say that it isn’t for everyone would be an understatement. Having said that however, if you’re looking for an utterly unique experience which will make you smile as well as think, you could do a lot worse.
3.5 / 5
L is now available on VOD and DVD. It is directed by Babis Makridis and stars Aris Servetalis, Efthymis Papadimitriou and Lefteris Matthaiou.