A hypnotic allure sails through the waves of loneliness encapsulated in Evangelia Kranioti’s Exotica, Erotica, Etc. The film revolves around Sandy, a former prostitute who reflects on her encounters with the numerous sailors who travelled through the Spanish port where she resides. Despite the nature of her past profession, Sandy’s stories are not tales of horror, but rather love and loss. Similar to the cavernous interiors of the Greek ships that bring the sailors to port, there is sizeable void in her heart. She is a woman who has spent years falling in love with men whose transient nature was not conducive to lasting relationships.
Comparing sailors to terrorists who “arrive in ports with a bomb called love,” Sandy’s tone is not one of bitterness, quite the contrary in fact, but her words cannot mask the deep sadness within. She recounts her passionate encounters with the same zeal of an artist reluctant to concede that their glory days have passed. While her love for these men where genuine, the fact that it was spawned from a transaction is not forgotten either. Sandy even ponders, at one point, how strange it must be to “pay someone who loves you.”
There is a poetic and meditative beauty to the way Exotica, Erotica, Etc. unfolds. Evangelia Kranioti’s camera often stays planted, as if a ghost observing the lives of those stuck in a seafaring purgatory, resisting the temptation to pass any sort of judgment. Wisely taking the time to let her film breath, Kranioti’s exquisite colour palette transports the viewer into an almost magical realm. Similar to the drunken sailors congregating with prostitutes in the cramped bars under the moonlit sky, the audience cannot help but be drawn into the alluring dreamlike nature of life on the sea.
A major part of the film’s success has to do with the way Kranioti juxtaposes Sandy’s reflective soliloquies with the daily mundane activities aboard the shipping vessels. The sense of isolation in the film is palatable. The sailors struggle with both their desire to be constantly on the move, as if searching for that allusive item which will give their journey meaning, and their need for basic intimacy. Shots of the vessel lighting up in the dark void of the night, the interior of the boats being cleaned, and trails of ice shards in the open water only add further weight to lonely existence of the seafaring lifestyle.
Though its measured pacing, which fits the almost timeless nature of life at sea, will be problematic for some, Exotica, Erotica, Etc. is a sensational debut from Evangelia Kranioti. Visually stunning and poetically beautiful, the film marks the emergence of a director that audiences should keep a close eye on in the future.
Wednesday, April 29, 9:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, May 1, 4:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, May 2, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.