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TRANSILVANIA 2020

Review: Defunct

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- Zacharias Mavroeidis’ drama goes right to the heart of one of the issues of youth today

Review: Defunct
Michalis Sarantis in Defunct

Just a few days ago, Greek director Zacharias Mavroeidis’ second fiction feature Defunct [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
was competing in the official competition of the 19th Transilvania International Film Festival. That is where we caught up with this easy on the eye drama about (finally) growing up, entitlement, expectations and how much the younger generation needs to be in contact with the older generation.

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We meet the protagonist, Aris (Michalis Sarantis), from the film’s very first frames. He is handsome, very sure of himself and of his future in business, as he is just setting up a company that sells espresso machines.  The word “fail” does not appear in his vocabulary and, as he keeps bragging on the phone about plans and opportunities, we feel his entitlement. In order to improve his finances, Aris goes back home to the village he was born in and moves into his grandfather’s house, now empty after the old man died a few years back. But this change of setting forces Aris to reconsider his position in relation to his family, his grandfather and finally being a man.

Films such as Defunct put reviewers into a difficult position, as their most precious moments (and here, the magnifying glass through which Mavroeidis looks at the world) should not be spoiled. Starting with his arrogant protagonist, the film succeeds in addressing about some very interesting issues, such as the question of how to find our own path in the world (it is interesting that Aris finally does that not by leaving his hometown, as it is usually the case, but by going back there) and the fact that our place in life depends so much on our connection with our family, the very people that so many of us are eager to reject in order to reclaim our independence.

It is intriguing how the screenplay, written by Mavroeidis, pushes the audience into the wrong direction, slowly showing Aris reconnecting with childhood friends and having fun at the local tavern while his entire life is symbolically haunted by the ghost of his grandfather, the mighty WW2 veteran Aristides, to whom Aris resembles so much (something which pretty much everyone crossing the screen seems eager to tell him about). The friendship Aris builds with Vassos (Thanasis Papageorgiou), an old comrade in arms of Aristides, brings new opportunities for the young protagonist to reevaluate his priorities and reconsider his family’s past.

Defunct is indeed a manifesto towards something that could be described as the essence of family: support and the transfer of experience. Young people are so eager to create their own paths in the world that they almost always forget that the same obstacles challenging their success have been faced, not too long ago, by their elders. Of course, we can always learn from our own mistakes (and a lesson learnt first hand in that way lingers longer in the memory), but why not learn from the experience of others? In Defunct, Aris reconnects with his grandfather by way of Vassos’ stories and learns that many things we now take for granted were infinitely more complicated or even impossible in the past.

Defunct was produced by Faliro House Productions, which is also handling the film’s international sales.

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