"In his debut feature, writer-director Harry Patramanis channels the existential and psychological moodiness of classic Michelangelo Antonioni, Nicholas Roeg, Peter Weir and Wim Wenders, as
Fynbos cares more about people’s actions and reactions, than plot development or action. Patramanis avoids drama as he quietly studies the divisions between people - whether definitively drawn by race or class, or existing in a purely psychological realm."
Smells like screen spirit — Don Simpson
"Fynbos pulses with a primal force, a force from pre-history. Yet it is understated, lulled by the wind at every turn. As it stands Fynbos is a brilliantly anti-cathartic piece of filmmaking, full of haunted landscapes populated by haunted people. From its multinational crew, right down to its metaphors on the many kinds of barriers we put up, it is a film that also emphasizes the post-national world we now inhabit, presenting the once so-called Dark Continent as a beacon, and as a compass, to the inner frontiers we are still very much challenged by."
Twitch — Ben Umstead
"Named after the characteristic bush that grows in this land, Fynbos goes deep into its subjects’ psyches as they play for huge personal stakes, flirting with self-destruction over ownership of a piece of land that in a sense can’t be owned. It puts a mastery of film language at the service of expressing something like the intangible spirit of a place, creating a microcosm of a world out of balance."
Hammer to Nail — Paul Sbrizzi
"Fynbos, a low-key suspenser that masterfully sustains tension with elliptical storytelling and evocative atmospherics... All the lead players convey intriguing ambiguities, some more intriguing than others, while Sthandiwe Kgoroge makes the most of a key supporting role - a politely inquisitive police officer - by hinting that she, too, may be holding a few cards close to her vest. Pacing is aptly deliberate, as helmer Harry Patramanis, working from a spare script he co-wrote with Jonathan Kyle Glatzer, makes efficient use of pregnant pauses and ambient sound."
Variety — Joe Leydon
"One of Slamdance's most intriguing features was the meditative and suspenseful, Fynbos."
Huffington Post — Xaque Gruber
"Director Harry Patramanis has crafted a unique and haunting dramatic thriller with his debut feature... there is not only no rapid cutting and visual trickery here. Instead Fynbos is a film that not only trusts the audience to engage with it but requires them to, with the events of the film open to wildly different interpretations."
Twitch — Todd Brown
"A mi-chemin entre la terre et les cieux..."
"In between heaven and earth..."
Film de culte — Gregory Coutaut
"The Fynbos house is set in a valley against a stunning mountain backdrop, surrounded by lush vegetation.
A paradise on earth that is for sale. But a foreign body in the archaic landscape, a space ship, an almost demonic presence."
"Eingenestelt in einem Tal vor atemberaubender Bergkulisse liegt die Villa Fynbos, umgeben von üppiger Vegetation. Ein Paradies auf Erden, das zum Verkauf steht. Aber auch ein Fremdkörper in der archaischen Landschaft, ein Raumschiff, eine fast dämonische Präsenz."
perlentaucher.de — Elena Meilicke
"Already the whirring insects would be enough to drive you crazy. This lurking fear of losing everything that we feel is universal, .. And then again, somehow, this is also a South African film"
"Die Insekten sirren auch schon wie zum Verrücktwerden. In dieser lauernden Angst vor dem Verlust von allem wäre dies dann ein universeller – und damit irgendwie auch wieder ein südafrikanischer Film."
Frankfurter Rundschau — Sabine Vogel
"Out of the extravagant setting of Fynbos Estates (fynbos means something like a fine bush along with the intended euphemism) and the explosive constellation of characters, the script and direction create something pretty spectacular."
"Aus dem extravaganten Setting des Fynbos Estates (fynbos bedeutet so etwas wie feiner Busch, der übliche Euphemismus also) und der explosiven Figurenkonstellation holen Drehbuch und Regie so ziemlich alles heraus."
satt.org — Thomas Vorwerk / Sven Schlünzig
Ένα υπέροχο εγκεφαλικό παιχνίδι πολλών ερωτημάτων και ελάχιστων απαντήσεων είναι το «Fynbos»
e-go.gr — Ορέστης Ανδρεαδάκης
Το ελληνικό σινεμά στο Βερολίνο: Χάρης Πατραμάνης
e-go.gr — Ρωμανός Αργυρόπουλος-Ιωάννου
English translation from the attached original
Written by contributors Thomas Vorwerk, Sven Schlunzig for satt.org
BY HARRY PATRAMANIS
South Africa / Greece 2012, Script: Jonathan Kyle Glatzer, Harry Patramanis, Camera: Dieter Deventer, Editing: Yorgos Mavropsaridis, Music: Coti K., with Jessica Haines (Meryl), Warrick Grier (Richard), Cara Roberts (Renée), Susan Danford (Anne), Sthandiwe Kgoroge (Officer Toni Bengu), Chad Phillips (VJ), John Herbert (Lyndon), 96 Mins. This film takes place in South Africa where also exclusively English is spoken and none of the characters have a recognisable connection to Greece. Since it is known that the director and some of the crew are Greeks, we can see parallels with the situation in that country which other Greeks participating in the festival have over stressed. This is an interesting phenomenon but I will not dwell on that here. Meryl (Jessica Haynes, something between Cate Blanchett and Sandra Hüller, known from the Coetzee-filming of Disgrace) throws her South African passport into the trash and then proceeds to tell the police as well as her husband that she was robbed. At first a detail that is hard to follow but as the story unfolds it become apparent that this is a silent rebellion. Since her husband can be described as a protective and possessive character (Warrick Grier) then this would not be enough. Richard has money worries and urgently needs to sell an unfinished, luxury, designer house. The house sitting couple, VJ and Renée, seem like a younger version of the Meryl/Richard couple. Renée could be an 8 year younger sister (and there are some similarities between her and Meryl,) whilst with VJ we recognise some of the less pleasant characteristics from Richard especially when he is with his girlfriend. The underlying attraction could already deliver enough fuel for this film, as in the lightly claustrophobic German holiday film “Everyone Else“ set on Formentera. A third couple join them in the villa, the potential buyers, the very British siblings, Lyndon and Anne. Out of the extravagant setting of Fynbos Estates (fynbos means something like a fine bush along with the intended euphemism) and the explosive constellation of characters, the script and direction create something pretty spectacular. An island of the (battered) wealth in the middle of a sea of poverty from which, later, Meryl will disappear just as in Antonioni's L'Avventura. Suddenly this becomes a criminal case but even more fascinating is the contemplated and subtle interaction between the characters. My all time favourite scene is where Meryl sits at the dining table and should tell the story of the robbery that never took place. “I didn't see the knife. [...] but when he pressed it against the back of my neck, it was rigid. [...] He called me a rich bitch.“ It tends towards over interpretation, but I could swear that the author has completely intentionally used the words 'rigid' and 'rich', both of which, for me, sound very much like 'Richard' . At least unintentionally Meryl declares Richard the perpetrator of her 'loss of identity' , later he becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Yet Fynbos is not a detective thriller (despite the presence of the black police woman who as different as the other characters is nevertheless kinder) but instead an hour and a half of continuous suspense. This is about race and class conflict, magical realism, and a mythical threat created by Meryl (when she picks up a beetle while drifting away, we see the sun briefly flash a smile), but also about self destruction and self loathing. I don't want to retell all of the film or analyse the whole thing, but I would like to finish by saying that this is a movie that deserved a better place in this year's competition.
Out of breath: The Berlin blog
(English translation from the original attached)
An absolute 'must see'
In his video essay, "Los Angeles Plays Itself" (2003) (Youtube) , Thom Anderson discusses why modernist architecture comes off so badly in Hollywood cinema: the villains always live in the Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright houses. One such house – white, straight lines, spectacular with its flat roof and glass façades – plays the staring role in "Fynbos". South Africa, west of Cape Town: The Fynbos house is set in an isolated valley against a stunning mountain backdrop, surrounded by lush vegetation. A paradise on earth for sale. But a foreign body in a monumental landscape, a space ship, an almost demonic presence. Right in the middle of a building project the money has run out, leaving one part of the house unfinished and hidden behind plastic sheets that flutters with the wind at night. Richard must get rid of the house otherwise he will ruin himself, thus in desperation he tries to sell the property to two British siblings. Earn praise, make a good impression and avoid any discord. His wife Meryl, puts a spanner in the works, as she wanders through the house hearing and seeing things that aren't there. Uncanny occurrences begin. We become aware just how much exclusion and demarcation work was necessary to create this earthly paradise. “Don't look!“ Richard demands, when his wife's gaze waivers over the township houses just beyond the fence of the property. A large gate and a kilometre fence of barbed wire surround the Fynbos premises and as Richard boasts, the alarm system is highly sensitive. "Fynbos" tells of locking out and locking in, not so much as a reaction to danger, but rather as symptomatic of the racist fears present in the psyche of the white upper and middle classes. The way in which Harry Patramanis (A Greek who studied at the HFF in Munich) has visualised these diffuse fears in a non psychological way symbolised by the house, is deeply appealing. At night the several metre high glass walls, which in the daytime are transparent and promise the insider a perfect view of the outside, become one way mirrors. Outsiders may then see everything happening inside, the insider only sees their own face. We can look inside but not outside. Scenes of dialogue filmed through the glass panes and remain therefore mute, without tone and sound proof. Perhaps the way in which "Fynbos" demonstrates certain dichotomies: black v. white, rich v. poor, men v. women, culture v. money, may not be the most subtle. But the way "Fynbos" tells the story of someone who becomes too small to gradually disappear, exercises a unique allure over us. It reminds me a little of the hypnotic style of Weerasethakul if only in a crude way, hedged in by considerably more conventional narrative style than that for which the Thai director is renowned. In front of the vast mountain backdrop, the plot movement sometimes can seem almost cliché like and miserable but somehow that is exactly as it should be. The characters remain marginal, they appear and then they disappear. One after another the guests leave the property and travel away, Meryl has disappeared and she is possibly even dead. Elena Meilicke
Emancipated in the Kraal, Depressed in the Bungalow
By Sabine Vogel
In Fynbos, so called after a bush that grows exclusively in the Cape Province and which can dye water a blood red color with its roots, a woman is playing the leading role. This woman, Jessica Haines known for her role in “Shame“, finds herself most definitely not in a cultural setting and loses herself Not losing herself in a country or landscape or even a relationship, instead in nothingness. The collapse of a personality. Already in the first scene, we see how she throws away her personal documents and wallet into the trash. In the wasteland behind her we see how a colored woman hangs out her laundry: slum, poverty township. And? The white woman extracts herself. Wearing high-heeled shoes that these days are nearly always only worn in films and or at red carpet events. After this we see her driving through the wide landscape next to her husband in a sports car. On the horizon, hidden in the bright green chain of hills. There is a glazed villa which her husband built and wants to sell. A handsome couple are staying up there already. Together with potentially rich buyers from Europe they socialise in that minimalistic cold architectural space. The glass panes reflect the wild surroundings whilst dry grass crackles, rustles and whispers. The windows frame the still life of white wine glasses. Yet, we are the only witnesses to this. A world outside this isolation appears not exist. The only possible invasion to this comes when someone in the form of an out of place chubby black policewoman pays a visit. African films usually tell a story with a message as with 2Elewani“. In “Fynbos“ we are not told anything and nothing happens except that this woman, as hinted at in the opening scene, goes missing. It could be interpreted then, that all the whites here have lost themselves in their climatic wealth that we feel is universal, ... And then again, somehow, this is also a South African film.
Fynbos Feb. 16th: 7.15 pm, CineStar 8
Donnerstag, 14. Februar 2013, Nr. 38 Süddeutsche Zeitung / Feuilleton - Film
Letzte Chance Südafrika
Die Entstehungsgeschichte eines
Thrillers im Berlinale-Forum
Donnerstag, 14. Februar 2013, Nr. 38 Süddeutsche Zeitung / Feuilleton - Film
Letzte Chance Südafrika
Die Entstehungsgeschichte eines
Thrillers im Berlinale-Forum
Ein Haus aus Glass und Stahl über der Steppe, kalt ragt es aus der Landschaft heraus, ein Fremdkörper. Auch die Menschen darin gehören nicht wirklich hierher, sie wirken so fehl am Platz im südafrikanischen Fynbos wie ihr Haus. Der Baulöwe Richard hat nicht mehr genug Geld, um die moderne Luxusvilla fertigzustellen - also hat er übers Wochenende eine Interessentin eingeladen, die ihm das Haus abkaufen soll, ein paar Freunde sind auch dabei. Seine Frau Meryl spielt aber nicht mit - sie dreht durch. Sie erzählt von einem Überfall und schreibt darüber in ihrem Tagebuch, aber man weiss nicht so recht, ob er stattgefunden hat. Eine merkwürdige stille Bedrohung liegt über diesem Haus, und niemand ausser Meryl scheint das zu spüren. Bis sie plötzlich verschwunden ist - ganz am Anfang hat man gesehen, wie sie ihre Papiere wegwirft: Als wollte sie sich auflösen. Und nun erfasst die Angst auch die anderen. "Fynbos" ist ein atmosphärischer kleiner Mystery-Thriller voller unlösbare Rätsel. Er hatte gerade beim Slamdance Festival in den USA den Kamerapreis gewonnen, bei der Berlinale wird er nun auch im Forum gezeigt. Es ist der erste Film von Harry Patramanis, der aus Griechenland stammt, in Muenchen die Filmhochschule besuchte - fast zwanzig Jahre ist's her - und dann erst eimal erfolgreich in die Werbung ging. "Ich dachte: Das ist ja grossartig - ich mache nicht alle drei Jahre einen Film, sondern drei Wochen" sagte er. "Man war damals auch noch ziemlich frei, wenn man Werbefilme gedreht hat - heute hat man die gesamte Marketing-Abteilung des Auftraggebers im Nacken". Nach ein paar Jahren ging Patramanis nach Athen und machte dort Werbung, inzwischen mit seiner Frau Eleni; dann zogen die beiden 1999 nach Los Angeles, auf der Suche nach einem Filmprojekt. Denn es war immer noch klar: Eigentlich wollte Harry Patramanis Spielfilme drehen. Das mit der Werbung war aber nicht nur deswegen gut, sagt Patramanis, weil er davon lebt, sondern auch "weil ich meine ganze Erfahrung mit in den Spielfilm hinein bringen könnte." Das Gefühl für Räume beispielsweise, dass in "Fynbos" eine ganz grosse Rolle spielt, das Gespür dafür, eine Figur mit wenigen Mitteln zu zeichnen. Es war aber immer eine zeit- und geldraubende Angelegenheit, nebenher noch Leidenschaft in ein Film projekt zu stecken. Es ist wahnsinnig schwer, den Film finanziert zu bekommen, den man selbst machen will, denn jeder Produzent hat eigene feste Vorstellungen, sagt Patramanis. "Man bekommt als Werbefilmer immer Angebote, einen Horrorfilm zu drehen oder ein Remake - als gun for hire. Aber das wollte ich nicht, denn so arbeite ich in der Werbung."Vier Projekte sind so über die Jahre nicht zu Stande gekommen, obwohl sie ganz kurz davor waren, gedreht zu werden.
"Jedes Mal hatte ich ein Drehbuch, und wir hatten ein schönes Projekt auf die Beine gestellt, mit Cast und "Wenn man in Europa einen Film dreht, schreibt man sein Drehbuch, und dann reicht man es bei der Förderung ein, und wenn man sie bekommt, geht es auf der nächsten Stufe weiter. In den USA hat man ein Script und dann muss man alles andere, die Crew und die Schauspieler und das Geld, auf einen Schlag zusammenhaben - oder man fängt bei null wieder an. Einmal hatte ich Patricia Clarkson für eine Rolle bekommen - und dann wollte der Produzent plötzlich, dass alle andere Rollen auch neu besetzt werden sollen, mit bekannteren Schauspieler, und das klappte nicht. Alles nur, weil eine berühmte Schauspielerin das Script mochte! Kino ist ein absurdes Geschäft, besonders in Hollywood." Dann ging er für ein Projekt nach Griechenland - aber die Finanzkrise machte dem ganzen Unternehmen den Garaus.
"Fynbos" nahm dann erst Gestalt an, als er die Geschichte - er hat das Drehbuch mit Jonathan Kyle Glatzer geschrieben - von Kalifornien nach Südafrika transportierte. "Ich hatte so ein ähnliches Haus in Palm Spring gesehen, und auch als ich für die Werbe-Dreharbeiten in Südafrika war, kam mir die Idee, den ganzen Film dort zu drehen." Und das hat dann geklappt. Die Isolation, das Nebeneinander von Reichtum und Armut, das würde in einem amerikanischen Film wirken wie eine Konstruktion, in "Fynbos" aber fügt sich alles zu einem verwirrenden Mosaik. Und vielleicht musste der Film diese weite Reise machen, um dort anzukommen.
Thursday 14th February 2013 No. 38 Süddeutsche Zeitung / Feuilleton - Film
Last Chance South Africa
The origin of a thriller
at the Berlinale-Forum
A house of glass and steel overlooking the steppe, protruding coldly out of the landscape like a foreign body. Even the people in it don't really belong here, appearing as out of place in the South African Fynbos, as their home. Building tycoon Richard no longer has the money to complete the luxury villa. Consequently he invites potential buyers to stay over the weekend, along with couple of friends in the hopes that he can sell the property. His wife Meryl, however won't play ball – she begins to go mad. She tells of being attacked and writes about it in her diary, but we can't be certain that this really took place. An eerily quiet threat hangs over the house and no one except Meryl seems to sense it. Until suddenly she disappears – right at the beginning we see how she throws away her documents as if she wants to delete her own existence. Only then do the others feel this fear too. “Fynbos“ is an atmospheric small mystery thriller full of unsolvable puzzles- It has just won the Cinematography Prize at Slamdance in the USA and is now being shown in the Forum at the Berlinale. It is the first film from Harry Patramanis, originally from Greece. After completing his studies at the Film School in Munich, almost twenty years ago, he began a successful career in advertising. “I thought: this is great – I won't just make a new film ever three years, but every three weeks.“ he said. “There was still quite a lot of creative freedom on the commercial shoots back then – nowadays you have your client's entire marketing department on your back“ After a few years he moved to Athens and made commercials there meanwhile alongside his wife Eleni. Then in 1999 they both moved to Los Angeles looking for new film projects. Because it was always clear: Harry Patramanis actually wanted to make feature films. Making commercials wasn't only helpful in giving him a living, but also as Patramanis says, “I could bring my entire experience with me into feature production.“ The feeling of space which plays such an enormous role in Fynbos, for instance, and the intuitive skill of creating an image with minimal means. It was a permanent time and money consuming activity, simultaneously investing his passion into a film project. It is incredibly difficult to get financing for a film that you want to make yourself, because, as Patramanis says, every producer has their own fixed ideas . As a director of commercials, I am always getting offers for projects like horror movies or a remake. But that was not what I was after, so I kept going in the commercials. “Four projects did not come into fruition even though they were almost at the point of being ready to shoot. Every time I would get a script and we had a fabulous project on the go with the cast in place something would happen last minute and we were back to zero. If you want to shoot a movie in Europe, you write your script and then you start looking for funding and if you have it in place then you move onto the next stage. In the US you have your script and then you must get everything else, the crew, actors and the finances all together immediately otherwise you are back at the beginning again with nothing. Once I managed to cast Patricia Clarkson for a role and then suddenly the producer wanted me to recast all parts with renowned actors and of course it didn’t happen. All that because a famous star said she liked the script... Cinema is an absurd business especially in Hollywood.“ Then he went to Greece for a project but the banking crisis put an end to the whole enterprise. “Fynbos“ really started the moment he took the story – he wrote the script together with Jonathan Kyle Glatzer – out of California and transported it to South Africa. “I had seen similar houses in Palm Springs California and I was also based in South Africa for commercial film work where I came up with the idea to shoot the whole film there.“ Then it took off. The isolation and the proximity of wealth and poverty could somehow seem fabricated in an American film whilst in “Fynbos“ as it is now this accommodates a bewildering mosaic of contrast. And perhaps this movie had to make this long journey in order to arrive at what it is now.