Before the Storm

written by Petra Meterc


Fox (2016) may be a short film concerning its length, but as far as the plot is concerned, the skilful structure of the narrative line and the manipulating of time, it feels as if we are watching a feature. It's a coming-of-age film in which the growing up part comes in a flash. The film kicks off with the oldest son of the family (Nikos Zegkinoglou) getting into a fight with his single mother (Nota Tserniafski), who, crushed by the argument, then drives off in tears. The scene that switches from her crying while searching for a cigarette to the aerial view of the twisting road, perfectly contrasted by David Bowie's happy-go-lucky soundtrack material Modern Love playing in the background, ends in a moment of inattentiveness. This sudden cut represents the end of the oldest son’s youth as well.

However, it is the viewer who possesses the sole knowledge of that. The film jumps back to the house where all of the three children, the oldest adolescent son together with his child brother (Lyssandros Kouroubalis) and sister (Mihaela Holeza) spend what turns out to be their last carefree summer day. The hand-held camera follows them in dancing around the house and sprinkling with water in the sun, with the interplay of sunbeams and water drops, as well as a mixture of laughter and background chirrup adding to the ecstatic playfulness. The children are joined by the oldest son's girlfriend (Katerina Zisoudi), adding to the “teenage film” feel of an easy-going vibe including adolescent sexuality meaningfully taking place in the mother's bed.

This mood is juxtaposed by a certain sense of unease that keeps looming in the background and the viewer is anticipating the rough end. We can see that in the oldest son’s face, he is obviously tense due to the early argument, which is emphasized with close-ups of his face. These show his suppressed frustration of not wanting to be appointed the role of the second adult in the family. There are clues for the viewers that work as strong reminders that the lives of all of them will be changed soon. While the scenes of dancing and playing around in the garden seem timeless, suspense is built by interruptions of the phone ringing and it being ignored. It is clear that the calls are coming from the mother’s phone, and since the viewers only have partial knowledge of what happened, this heightens the suspense of wanting to know what the phone call is about. Yet the motif of death appearing twice suggests the worst scenario.

The young Greek director Jacqueline Leutzou, also a participant of the Berlinale Talents Short Film Station 2015 with Fox, wrote on the film's official website that she decided to make the film after she experienced death for the first time, wished to convey the feeling of sensing that something tragic is on its way and she succeeds in doing that. While many movies deal with grief, the last moments before knowing that someone close to you is gone aren’t something often explored in such a well-structured manner. The family will change soon and a few carefully framed bird's perspective views of the children doing usual family things seem to imply that someone may already be observing them from an unearthly place, while they spend the day alone, as they will in the near future.