Greece’s Financial Crisis
Running away on the highway, Maria (Aggeliki Papoulia) is alone in her roaring SUV speeding down the highway. Behind her, there is fire and a case full of money. In front of her is the hopeless vastness of the motorway. Yesterday she was a caring mother, a loving wife and a responsible daughter. Today she has gone rogue. Syllas Tzoumerkas’ striking film looks at Greece’s ongoing financial crisis in “A Blast”. A film in which no one is having a blast. This is the story of a young mother’s manic nervous breakdown in the face of financial ruin and it presents more than enough rough-and-tumble directorial nerve together with a socioeconomic critique..
The national anger over Greece’s ongoing financial crisis has powered many of the country’s most striking auteur works over the last few years. However, filmmakers have tended to address the subject through allegory. This is not the case in “A Blast,” where scarcely any issue or insult goes unspoken, and where the narrative pivots drastically on a family’s ruinous business debts.
The narrative structure makes demands of its viewers’ attention. The proceedings open as an unseen motorist hurtles heedlessly down a darkened rural road, while a radio report describes a severe arson incident in the region. Viewers may guess the context of this scene before it resurfaces.
Following this propulsive opening gambit, we flash back to calmer times on the beach, where bright, college-age Maria is revising for her law-school entry exam and sparring with her less confident younger sister Gogo (Maria Filini). From here on, the film moves swiftly back and forth between multiple time periods. If the actors’ unchanging appearance initially makes it difficult to determine exactly where each scene falls on the timeline, director Tzoumerkas uses that disorientation to amplify a mounting, fevered sense of panic. Gradually, the full picture emerges: Maria has dropped her studies to run the ailing grocery store owned by her wheelchair-bound mother (Themis Bazaka), and married Yannis (Vassilis Doganis), a sailor whose extended absences at sea leave his wife overwhelmed by her obligations to her parents and three children.
We see the end of Maria’s tether well before she discovers its full extent, long concealed by her mother of the family’s catastrophic finances. With marital strain — only briefly allayed by bouts of sex during Yannis’ infrequent visits, Maria is pushed to the brink. She lashes out at those around her in an irrational fashion. Maria’s collapse may stand for that of many a disenfranchised individual against the system, though the “system” in place here is far from a single entity. Papoulia negotiates the character’s colliding moods and impulses with frazzled gusto in a bravura performance. She’s supported by spiky ensemble work. Though the film’s energy may be reckless, its craft is never correspondingly coarse. The film is as clear a visual representation as any of the disconnect between Greece’s tourist-friendly surface and its fractious internal politics.
Always hanging over Maria’s head is her invalid mothers small general store which is losing money and ends up seeing her left with a huge fine after not paying her taxes. Slowly Maria’s world is decimated from the young idealistic days to an existence of constant worry, anger and regret until she finally explodes one day.
“A Blast” keeps the pace brisk and several scenes of happiness are inter cut with moments of real anguish. Syllas Tzoumerkas’ film is an intense work that will leave you bewildered and perhaps angry at the world.