– Asimina Proedrou’s debut film explores the moral ambiguities and social tensions on the Greek border, with the approval of the country’s Oscar bid.
Eugenia Lavda in Behind the haystacks
It is 2015, on the northern border of Greece, and Stergios (Stathis Stamoulakatos) is drowning in debt. So begins Behind the haystacksthe first feature film from the Greek writer-director Asimina Proedrou which is now being screened in competition at the Balkan Film Festival in Rome (read news). In addition, it was also chosen this year for the Greek Oscar for Best International Feature Film.
As real life and recent European cinema have shown, there is always someone to offer a quick solution to financial problems, and that almost always involves smuggling immigrants across the border. In Behind the haystacks, this is the border of Lake Doiran, and this someone is Stergios’ brother-in-law, a man with shady business dealings. Against the advice of his wife Maria (Eléni Ouzounidou), a fervent practitioner, Stergios takes on this risky work in secret. In the meantime, their teenage daughter Anastasia (Eugenie Lavda) is trying to make a life for himself outside the oppressive bubble of his home. But there is a catch, a tragedy that ruptures a deceptively simple narrative of family harmony.
The national success of Proedrou’s short film in 2013 Red Hulk was already a calling card. Winning awards at two major Greek festivals, the film made her a director to watch and highlighted her ability to meticulously dissect socio-political issues explored through a single individual. In Behind the haystacks, she develops this complex relationship with the help of a Rashomon-style structure, where each part builds on the events presented by adding a different point of view. The film encloses its tragedy in a triangle, in condemnation, in the impossibility of moving forward without scarring.
Director of Photography Simos Sakertzis distills Proedrou’s poetic and political vision into a mix of handheld and reactive camerawork, emphasizing the distraught psychological state of each character individually. Stergios’ world is fast-paced, repetitive, and often deafening, so he can’t help but fall behind. Bound by the weight of his debts and the legacy of patriarchal aggression that runs through him, the father exists in a cinematic universe composed of heavy sets and ineffable solitude, framed more often alone than with others. Maria’s role is riddled with anxiety and confusion: the focus and rapid change of scenes leave marks on her perception, as the moral dichotomy of good versus evil that has guided her thus far fractures. and deforms. Her allegiance to the Church and Christian values traps her in doubt and passivity; it makes perfect sense that his chapter is the middle one, stuck between two opposite poles. After all, many mothers in traditional family structures like this find themselves in a mediating but docile position.
A rich film invested in the inner lives of its characters, Behind the haystacks testifies to Asimina Proedrou’s directorial vision and her future successes. Without confining itself to a single genre – whether social drama or psychological thriller – the film takes the pulse of the themes that are tearing Europe apart today: collective denial and political complicity through oppression structural. Proedrou, however, approaches these subjects with such attention, both aesthetically and ethically, that the film stands out as a trenchant (but still abundantly poetic) diagnosis of the present.
Behind the haystacks is a Greek production from the Athens-based company Argonauts Productionsin co-production with the German company Fiction parkAnd Film Sector (North Macedonia). TVCO manages international sales.