(Greece 2017; Dir: Sotiris Petridis, Tania Nanavraki)


Soylent Green is people!

review by Laurence Boyce


original title: 9023

length: 7

year of production: 2017

country of production: Greece

director: Sotiris Petridis, Tania Nanavraki

production: Dimitris Tsakaleas

director of photography: Thanasis Konstantopoulos

cast: Anastasis Roilos, Alexandros Koch, Eleni Thymiopoulou, Nikos Kolovos

festivals: Athens International Digital Film Festival 2018, Leiden Shorts 2018, Washington West International Film Festival 2017

© images: 9023 (Sotiris Petridis & Tania Nanavraki)

This following review contains spoilers for '9023' and lots of other films. Also Rosebud is a sled, Keyser Soze was Kevin Spacey all along and Bruce Willis is a ghost.

You know you’re in trouble when dystopian fiction begins to look more and more like a documentary set in the modern day. We all laughed at Mike Judge’s 'Idiocracy' when it posited a future America ruled by corporations and led by a President who has no business being in the job. It really doesn’t seem that hilarious anymore. We could dismiss 'Contagion' as Soderbergh doing his usual mainstream thing between weird arthouse fare and, my, isn’t it funny when Paltrow carks it in the first 10 minutes. Now it’s an eerily prescient handbook for the current world crisis (though Paltrow is still resolutely alive and probably doing her bit for the relief effort by selling more candles that smell like lady parts, because that’s what we all need to comfort us right now). 'Leprechaun' was just a silly horror movie about an evil troll who amasses great power. The UK in 2020.

It would perhaps be alarmist to even consider that the central conceit in Sotiris Petridis and Tania Nanavraki’s '9023' will ever become a reality. But even dyed-in-the-wool carnivores may start to think of switching over to the Quorn sausages after seeing it.

The film begins with a grubby man cutting and cooking some meat in his equally grubby kitchen. Combine that with an ominous, low drone of a musical sting in the background and we have something akin to an ASMR video for meat fetishists (and if you think those don’t exist, you’ve obviously never visited this thing called ‘the internet’). It sets up the aesthetic tone for the first two thirds of the film, all dirty colours and visceral sounds in which everything is slightly off kilter. There’s a slight correlation with the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, with a world that has connections to our own is still one of fantasy and the ‘other’.

As our flesh consuming protagonist moves to his living room, meal messily slopping around his plate, we cut between a TV interview with a government minister and a morass of slurping and chomping. While the interview is basically a slew of exposition – with the minister explaining the government’s plan of turning those deemed not useful to society into meat to feed the starving population — it does get the rhythm of ministerial speak spot-on, especially the way in which the most draconian of measures are made to sound reasonable and justified.

Those who have even the slightest knowledge of genre cinema know where the story is going to go, and it’s a testament to the eloquence of the set-up that the punchline still feels satisfying (and there is also some excellent use of sound in the final few moments of the film). The change in aesthetic near the end of the film makes for a lovely juxtaposition with what has come before, with everything dripping in a delicious irony.

In many ways '9023' is an excellent use of the short form – in its lean seven and half minute running time, it provides a satirical work of considerable narrative economy. Of course, when originally released, the film is easy to read as a swipe against the travails of Greece over the past decade and the way in which people are prepared to accept the most unpalatable of ideas in times of stress. In the time of Corona it takes on an extra disturbing resonance and one has the fervent hope that it doesn’t come to pass.

Would you really want to eat a Burger a la Film Critic?

'9023' was elected the Audience Favourite during the fifth week of My Darling Quarantine Short Film Festival.