At cinemas nationwide
Suntan, which was shown at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, is a disquieting yet engaging tale of the decline of middle-aged doctor Kostis (Efthymis Papadimitriou), from respected member of the local community to ostracised abuser as a result of his obsession with attractive twenty-something tourist Anna (Elli Tringou) and her friends. Whilst Anna and the group are initially welcoming of the bumbling, unthreatening Kostis, allowing him to tag along to their beach visits and nightclub crawls. However, their ultimate rejection of him, in particular their mocking of Anna rejecting his advances, result in Kostis using extreme measures to take Anna for himself.
Director Papadimitropoulos makes good use of visual contrasts between Kostis and his tourist “friends” to provide characterisation rather than simply relying on dialogue. During the beach scenes, Papadimitriou’s comparatively flabby, pale body is shown alongside the toned and tanned bodies of Anna and her friends. Kostis’ traditional Zorba the Greek-esque dance moves in the nightclub sequences are also shown to clash with the more sexualised dances of the tourists. Papadimitropoulos also effectively displays the deleterious effect that Kostis’ partying has on his professional duties by interspersing his antics with the tourists alongside his neglecting of patients at his surgery. Papadimitropoulos and fellow screenwriter Syllas Tzoumerkas also manage to chart the deteriorating view Anna has of Kostis; from a mild source of bemusement to troubling stalker at a natural pace without any narrative developments seeming forced. In particular, Kostis’ pursuit of Anna at the film’s climax does not appear as jarring as it would have been had the film been under the helm of a lesser director.
The film is also helped by the strong performance of Papadimitriou, who manages to portray the decline of Kostis without any awkward tonal shifts or overacting. He adeptly depicts Kostis as a somewhat-repressed professional during the early scenes, showing his difficulty in integrating with the local community, but is able to show the character’s desperate need for Anna in his tearful conversation with her, in which Kostis reveals his dissatisfaction with where he has ended up in life. Most importantly, Papadimitriou depicts Kostis’ emotional downward spiral with chilling effect – two wordless sequences showing him drunkenly disrupting a naked bonfire dance in his search for Anna and his breakdown in the film’s final minutes are fine examples of his in-depth performance.
Suntan is a dark observation on isolation, frustration and obsession that should not be missed.