Alexandrou Grigoroplou was fifteen in December 2008 when we has shot by police in Exarchia, Athens. The resulting riots transformed the district into something physically, philosophically and politically temporal. Over the course of three weeks, the clashes between police and protestors intensified, and, as the centre of most of the conflict, Exarchia was torn apart. After three weeks, however, Grigoroplou remained the only victim. Within a few years, Greece’s financial system caused another, more prolonged riot which served only to further the already largely strained seams of the nation. In the last decade, the country has undergone a transformation that has left it divided, in economic chaos, as an existentially tormented nation. Theopi Skarlatos and Kostas Kallergis have set out to examine how – or if – love can be manifested in an environment as fragile and distressed as this. Locating a concept as wide as love – within a situation as complex, broad, and inherently divisive as Greece finds itself – is no easy task, and in Love in the Time of Crisis, neither Skarlatos or Kallergis have been able to wholly pull this off.
The opening of the film frames Greece’s woes as a national dilemma, and while they are one level, the vicissitudes of the conflict are never properly examined, and the directors are hasty to paint a picture of each of their subjects on a teleological move towards love – or, at least, an unrequited concept of love that still perpetuates the possibility of the concept in some form. There is a sort of constant attempt to find this “love,” but never a proper analysis of the “chaos,” and the film finds the birth of its shortcomings within this. At just over an hour in length, trying to examine one of the broadest concepts in one of the more multi-faceted modern crises, Skarlatos and Kallergis were highly unlikely to properly address either side of the coin, and, as a result, the film finds itself in a state of being flawed from the start.
Anna Kouroupou, a transgender rights activist, provides one of the film’s rare moments of insight as she discusses on a very personal level her interaction with the prostitution industry in Greece, citing the increased supply resulted in women having to accept as little as 10 euros for such work. Eva, an endocrinologist, gives an account of her work in the escorting industry as a moonlight job in order to help her family financially. Due to the crisis, it is revealed that very few people are attending her practice due to their inability to afford it. In this, Skarlatos and Kallergis show the wide-reaching nature of the crises in Greece, but manage to put their fingers on a particular subset of the community – sex workers – allowing themselves to present a very specific examination of love and one of the films strongest moments. In a scene with her parents, her mother states fairly director that Kouroupou “will never be happy… if she is alone” offering a rare moments of insight into a culture of disconnection and loneliness that has emerged amongst a country. The characters in Greece are not unable to find love because of the circumstances in which the country is in, and Skarlatos and Kallergis misunderstand this; the country has the same interaction with the concept of love as any other country. However, the national existential crisis that plagues Greece has added a new pertinence to finding love – one that remains less palpable in other countries, due to the ability to find satisfaction elsewhere.
Love in the Time of Crisis is a film that attempts to give outsiders a picture of what Greece looks like today, and how its citizens interact with one another after a series of crises. That said, this presentation fails to properly capture the spirit or history of the nation, nor is it able to achieve a sustained interest throughout. Staying tuned into the film throughout its duration is difficult due to the stilted flow with which it moves between different manifestations of love, with little care for continuity as an entire work. Skarlatos and Kallergis’ film offers very little. Although the few moments when the film is able to centre in on a thematic focus are its best, these are too scarce and the film doesn’t offer enough time for any of them to be properly realised. There are very few pieces that take a thorough look at Greece as a nation today, and Love in the Time of Crisis feels like a temporal, shallow, and incomplete examination of a situation that is significantly more complex than Skarlatos and Kallergis are able to convey.