Evangelia Kranioti’s début feature shows an already impressive understanding of documentary storytelling and remarkable insight into the human experience.
Using just a few elements (Greek container ships; Sandy, a long-past-her-prime woman of the night who specialized in sailors with a “velvet” touch; a largely unseen Captain Giorgos who travels the high seas and philosophizes at will: “Can you imagine a life without passion, pain or anxiety?” and various bits of music, notably a saucy rendition of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” as the Greek/Filipino crew dance with each other in the messdeck), Kranioti paints a fascinating picture of those whose work ensures they have no true home (put succinctly” “How can you be a sailor if you stay in one place?”) alongside those who try to comport them during their voyages around the globe.
But in many ways, the real star is the ocean. In between recollections from Sandy (as she calls herself in the North; Marilyn from the South has been dismissed from duty for reasons unknown) and the reflections of the mariner, the camera showers the screen with a feast of ice breaking, heavy seas that might well make a few viewers queasy and glimmering surfaces through which these monster vessels of cold steel move with unrelenting drive and power. The scale of these incredibly floating conveyors of goods is magnificently revealed as, what appear to be no-bigger-than-ants, are men scrubbing down the holds, or—wearing the appropriate masks—walking carefully over tonnes of grain.
True enough, the sea is in “constant turmoil”—a recurring metaphor for the lives that are so closely bound to it. Much is also made of how different it feels to be traversing the world’s waterways compared with being so much more anchored on land.
Sandy, now riddled with tumours from her hundreds of liaisons, relies on memories-past to fill her days with a modicum of joy. How ironic indeed, she explains, that despite all of those men, she was incapable of conceiving, so must content herself with reliving the past—fervently hoping that one of her young men will still remember their couplings (or her past lovers’ children or grandchildren might pop by to say hello).
The deliberately thoughtful pace (like the long rolling waves themselves) may not be to everyone’s taste, but for those who can savour peering into two very different—yet intimately interlinked—lives, it’s an odyssey not to be missed. JWR