Talented young director Spiros Stathoulopoulos returns to his Greek roots to examine, using local symbolism, the eternal battle between sacrifice and temptation. His film “Metéora” is set amidst the craggy hilltop monasteries of the same name, run by monks and nuns of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Stathoulopoulos uses documentary-style footage and drama, interspersed with some fascinating animation built with orthodox iconography to tell a love story between a young Greek monk (Theo Alexander) and a young Russian nun (Tamila Koulieva).
The film begins by showing the characters – nun and monk, on either side of a triptych with their respective medieval monasteries in the middle, perched on separate peaks, aptly illustrating their separation through geography and spiritual calling. The only time they ever get to meet publicly is during mass, where they hardly speak to each other, and yet a relationship blossoms; using mirror-signals, and secret rendezvous whilst performing errands. The desolate rocky landscape bears witness to the young couple’s inner battles against temptation, desire, guilt, and love. While the monk tries to reconcile his forbidden desire through spiritual means – by trying to reason with Christ in person, the nun physically punishes herself by burning her hand over a lamp flame.
There are illustrated animated sequences too that draw from Greek myths and iconic art, like the maze that the monk negotiates with a ball of string to meet Christ (as opposed to the Minotaur), and whose torrents of blood he uses to swim to safety. Symbolism is also presented in a scene where a goat is singled out and butchered, in real-time, equating it to conquering satanic forces. There is however additional imagery that escapes me at the time of writing, like the piper from the village playing forgotten folk tunes to the monk. What does come as a surprise however, is the depiction of sex acts within the film – intense and raw, they happen when not really expected, and they leave you wondering about it even after the credits start rolling.
The cinematography, handled by Stathoulopolous himself, is lush and contemplative, which when coupled with the lingering noise from unseen crickets in the background, underscores the forces of nature at work. He is also not shy of long takes – and why should he, considering that his début film (PVC) was shot using a single take – a thriller that runs in real-time. Presented as a tableau of observations, Metéora is altogether more sombre, just with the occasional jolts of violence and passion unexpectedly thrown in. It is nevertheless, beautifully made, and therefore, Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Tamila Koulieva and Theo Alexander
The handsome couple sure have a chemistry going behind their monastic robes, and in addition to a masturbation scene from Tamila Koulieva, there is also a sex scene between Theo and Tamila in a cave.