KVIFF 2012 Review: “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food” by Ektoras Lygizos

Minimalist, melancholic but at the same time full of love, Ektoras Lygizos’ feature debut is a seamlessly executed cinematic exercise that goes above and beyond technical excellence to penetrate your very soul.

Bearing an admittedly strange title, you’d be excused to think that “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food” is symbolic, same as the film itself. Yet there’s nothing non- literal about it, just like there’s nothing poetic about what’s happening in Athens right now. Situations that would have once seemed grossly exaggerated are too close to home to be ignored as "amplified reality" for the sake of art.

Yes, the titular character is hungry. In fact, he’s so hungry that he sometimes eats his canary’s food, but he’s so pure at heart that he would never let the bird starve. Starvation is ever-present, it’s what ails and what drives him, refusing to let him sit still even for one moment in his constant quest to find something to fill his stomach.

His circumstances go from bad to worse. He starts out unemployed and penniless, and pretty soon the boy is waterless and homeless. All he has left is an elderly neighbor who can’t help him, a girl who doesn’t know what to make of him and a family that’s limited to a few pictures on his computer screen or the other end of an emotionally charged phone conversation. That and someone’s voice calling his name down the corridor.

But even if the camera is stuck like glue on leading man Yannis Papadopoulos, and the film is firmly placed in the present, it’s inevitable that you’ll think of the boy’s past. Of what came before.

Because this boy isn’t just a tortured hero or some kind of social outcast. He’s got the carefully cultivated voice of a counter tenor and the behavior of someone who’s seen better days. And even if the finale implies things could get better, you still can’t help wondering what will happen to him next.

But the script doesn’t have time for that. It’s all about the here and now, a reality that’s so sad, so imminent and so overwhelming that it almost takes your breath away. Lygizos’ filmmaking is sparse and ascetic, just like his leading man, but at the same time it’s electrified, choreographed and almost intoxicating. A fluid, precise, no frills cinema that certainly deserves to be called Bressonian, no matter how cliché that might sound.

Possibly because Lygizos’ film, just like Bresson’s oeuvre, isn’t just a slice of social cinema. Without ignoring reality and the overwhelming effect hunger can have on your body, it goes a lot further than that. It touches upon something a lot subtler and a lot more intrinsic, something that’s impossible to put into words, and a lot harder to stave off than hunger.

If there’s a necessary metaphor in every contemporary Greek film, especially one that speaks of something as familiar as neediness (but not sordidness), then you’ll have to look past the trashcans. “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food” is about keeping your humanity intact, even if you have to look for nourishment in the most unlikely places.

Check out the trailer below: