Karlovy Vary 2014: Yiannis Veslemes’ ‘Norway’ believes in romance…to death!

Romantic to the core and artistically resplendent, Yannis Veslemes’ ‘Norway’ is a new-wave phantasmagoria about everything worth keeping us…dead.

Yiannis Veslemes’ films are handmade. He has an irresistible way of constructing a finely detailed Athens underground that simultaneously resembles the socialist change of the 80’s and a world out of the pages of a dark comic book, which was initially created on a synthesizer before being committed to paper.

From the very first scenes of ‘Norway’, the viewers’ retinas are attacked by images that conjure memories of primal myths, instances of an authentic underground world, vintage toys of a forgotten childhood and kitsch 80’s garbs. These elements lend themselves to a trippy neon descent (kudos to Christos Karamanis for his cinematography) into a filmic land where the main hero Zano, isn’t the only vampire in a community of living dead, and certainly not the most blood-thirsty of them…

The film blatantly and discretely pays tribute to sci-fi films and to the noir and horror genres, all the while remaining authentic in a revelatory way. The resplendent glimmering audiovisual universe of ‘Norway’ swallows you whole. You get used to the dim lights and the disco beats of the slam-dancing DJ, the aura of death that surrounds the outcasts/heroes, its handmade – almost analog – texture. Before you know it, you find yourself transported into the film’s secret world and you’re captivated.

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Without taking notice, just like your body begins to move to the beat of a song in a nightclub where ‘nothing ever happens’, and the worst fortune that can befall you is to leave alone and wasted again at dawn, ‘Norway’ takes you by the hand and walks you…to the end of romance.

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In a nightmarish world inhabited by jaundiced Norwegians, half-dead Hitler corpses, vamps that fornicate wearing gas masks and forgotten stars of the golden age of ‘made in Greece’ straight-to-video 80’s cinema, Zano is a romantic anti-hero that is only interested in the ‘warm girl’ of his dreams and his belief that, if he stops dancing, his heart will also stop beating.

Part Kolokotronis, part party-animal and millennial-Greek, Zano (in his delirious melancholy incarnation, played by Vangelis Mourikis) is an authentic rock n’ roll anti-conformist that refuses to play by the rules of the living, the dead, or the living dead. He is a hero from the past living in the future, a frozen lonely cowboy in the wild west of a sapped and unfeeling world… he is a new species (of man, of vampire, it hardly matters) in a league of his own.

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Just like this handmade film by Yannis Veslemes – he is responsible for the screenplay, direction, set decoration and music (under his Felizol moniker) – which painstakingly constructed from his (filmic, musical, pulp, comic book, trash, cult) obsessions, new wave phantasmagorias and an almost fetishistic take on childhood, constitutes a consistent and authentic small debut effort, playfully winking to the ‘cosmic’ descent of Norway to the Mediterranean – a direct reference to unsung 80’s heroes ‘Horis Perideraio’.

At the same time, intentionally or not, it dreams up the only possible escape route and emergency exit from this nightmarish decade: romanticism…till death. And beyond.