Pause

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Pause
"Fyrogeni is brittle and intense in the central role, carrying herself in the slightly bent, over-cautious manner of someone continually expecting blame." | Photo: Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Do women in their forties and fifties become bad tempered for purely hormonal reasons or is that simply the age at which they run out of patience?

Elpida (Stella Fyrogeni) has many reasons to be frustrated. In an astonishing opening scene, her doctor recites a list of physical symptoms as unpleasant as it is lengthy, drawing it out to the point of absurd humour before announcing that they're all normal. But these are the least of Elpida's problems. There's the boring husband who only notices her when she fails to bring him food on time or when he's drunk and wants to lurch around on top of her for a bit before passing out. There are the relatives who ignore her until they need her help. And there's her home - the same drab walls for who knows how many decades, maintained with endless, cyclical work, and nothing to show for it but a growing desire to run away.

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The more we learn about Elpida, the more we realise that she has had very little control over her life. Like many people in that situation she has learned to take refuge in fantasy, but now she is beginning to find those fantasies difficult to distinguish from reality. That's one thing when she's lusting over a painter who likes to work without his shirt, another when she's sedating her unwitting husband and thinking about giving him a little too much. Yet these uncertain fantasies, for all that they might be spilling over, seem to be helping her to find out who she really is.

Fyrogeni is brittle and intense in the central role, carrying herself in the slightly bent, over-cautious manner of someone continually expecting blame. Elpida's brief ecstatic lunges for freedom are followed by habitual guilt. Her husband keeps a little blue bird in a cage in a too-obvious metaphor but when she leaves the door open it doesn't want to fly away. Her clothes and the walls of the apartment share that colour palette - shades of eggshell blue, mint and fern like those used in hospital buildings with the intention of keeping people calm. She watches the world from her balcony but seems unable to influence it.

Moving from bleak social realism that's occasionally leavened by dry wit towards stark horror and then something else altogether, Pause excels at identifying the tiny sources of stress in day to day life that can build until they become overwhelming. How long has Elpida's life been on hold? When her change is complete, when she emerges from her cocoon, what will she be?

Reviewed on: 29 Oct 2018
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Elpida is a housewife confronted with the first signs of menopause while trapped in a loveless marriage to a heartless, despotic man. When a young painter arrives to decorate her building, her grip on reality starts to slip.


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