"Wednesday 4:45" by Alexis Alexiou (Greece)
Karlovy Vary 2015 - East of the West Competition
Name: Nino Kovačić
“One man, one city, 32 hours” is written on the poster for Wednesday 4:45, the latest feature by Greek director Alexis Alexiou. This unusually titled film is set in a timeframe of 32 hours during 2010 in the city of Athens where one man named Stelios owns a jazz club. After getting a call from his old associate, Vassos, to come for a meeting with the loan shark Romanian, the world as he knew it by then enters a stage of rapid disintegration.
Yet another gripping Greek neo-noir, after Stratos (To mikro psari, Yannis Economides, 2014), focusing on a protagonist that is faced with an impossible situation and forced to push the boundaries of his own morality by becoming an outcast from social norms. But the norms seem to be changing around him as well, regarding the ever more pulsating everyday violence. The crisis had already struck Greece hard by 2010, as the streets of Athens are increasingly becoming a dog-eat-dog world accompanied with periodic but continuous audio background of political news reports.
Stelios’ world of comfort is falling apart and the surrounding survival violence takes him under its shadow once he himself is faced with an end situation of losing his beloved jazz club. He becomes shockingly aware of the moral crisis around him. This extreme situation drives him into more and more excessive and desperate behavior backed up insomnia, fatigue and hallucinations, all influencing his decisions.
Focused on the main character, the city of Athens becomes a different space as well. Alexiou and his exquisite cinematographer Christos Karamanis have given the Greek capital a look that goes beyond recognition. With the events happening mostly during the night, the metallic dark colors of buildings, streets and the sky reflect occasional street lights and neon signs, dominating the city’s panorama. This visual style is backed up with precise framing and editing in service of further focalization, telling the story as much as possible from the point of view of the character: reflecting to the outside reality and back.
Alongside the specific visual atmosphere comes a powerfully detailed music score by Felizol, describing the inner world of the protagonist and often periodically intermezzo-ed by tunes that ironically contrast the action scenes. Also, the fact that Selios is into jazz only adds to the melancholy feel.
Alexiou doesn’t withhold from using numerous film ‘tricks’ either. Slow motion, voice over, repetition of certain motives (shoelaces, phrases etc.), time-loop storytelling or even (urban) western paraphrasing (gunfight at 4:45 in the heavy rain): he does it skillfully, evoking images from the works of Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott and other masters of genre. Furthermore, the narration is divided into titled chapters to resemble crime novels.
All in all, after his Tale 52 debut in 2008, director and scriptwriter Alexiou’s long awaited second feature turned out to be a film noir par excellence: an archetypical story of an individual breaking away from society and acting on his own, going through a severe process of personal change but in the end trying to do the right thing. Regarding the current political situation, it comes with a taste of bitter irony considering the film is a Greek - German coproduction.