Greek and Roman mythology has been having something of a moment in cinema recently, with Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Orpheus and Eurydice), The Lighthouse (Proteus and Prometheus) and the much lesser known British independent film The Isle, which blended the Scottish folklore of selkies with the Greek siren myth. Film writer Valerie Complex also notes how The Neon Demon (2016) has parallels with Narcissus, Midsommer (2019) with Bacchae and Jumbo (2020) with Pygmalion in her recent article for Letterboxd; ‘Stanning the Ancients.’ Now, we actually have a Greek writer and director, Minos Nikolakakis, taking on the mythology of his own country, by loosely adapting the story of Apollo and Daphne and using a filming location that was a birthplace of several of these myths.
The two main actors are – wonderfully – named Prometheus and Anastasia, which sounds like a Greek myth in itself. The story starts off not unlike Northern Exposure (which is always going to be a bonus in my eyes) with Doctor Panos (Prometheus Aleiferopoulus), moving from a city to a remote and inhospitable location to serve a rural community. He goes into a wild forest and finds an isolated habitat, where he tries to attend to a woman Danae (Anastasia Rafaela Konidi) and an old man, who may or may not be her father. He is acting bizarrely aggressively, more monster than man and the young woman has an unusual skin condition, which the Doctor becomes determined to cure. Panos accidentally injures the old man in an altercation, takes him to the local village, then returns (under a strong and strange compulsion) for Danae.
The story becomes the tale of an obsessive and destructive love between Danae and Panos. She is mysterious – she speaks in an old dialect and her connection to the forest gradually becomes clear. Panos starts to age, while Danae remains ever-youthful, but it is unclear whether he is aging rapidly or if he has been there a very long time – time has become unstuck. The wigs, beards and make up are unfortunately on the low-budget side, but the aging is communicated better by Aleiferopoulus’ acting than these accoutrements. Director Nikolakasis cites the Victorian Gothic as an influence, reading Edgar Allen Poe growing up, as well as the Grimm Fairy Tales. Entwined plays with Gothic tropes such as the damsel-in-distress turning the table on her rescuer, it being unclear who is captor/captive, characters’ roles shifting and who has the upper hand or our trust and sympathy.
Remote forest locations have also been used to great effect in recent Gothic and folk-horror inspired films including Hagazussa, Gretel & Hansel, Koko-Di Koko Da and The Other Lamb. The forest becomes the main antagonist here, as Panos finds that he cannot leave, not matter how hard he tries. Entwined was shot on location on Mountain Parnonas in the Peloponnese peninsula – the birthplace of many ancient Greek myths (like the neireds, nymphs and nature’s spirits). According to legend, this mountain was the residence of God Pan. The way the forest is shot by cinematographer Thodoros Mihopoulos makes it seem to envelope the characters, and appear alive and magical. Danae’s wooden hut feels claustrophobic and contained, in contrast to the wild forest that surrounds it. The heat is palpable, because of an ever-present fire, with Danae extremely fearful of an unspoken consequence if it goes out.
All in all, Entwined is a sumptuous and sexy independent film, with elements of fantasy and horror interwoven into the love story well. The acting by the central couple sells the concept convincingly, with Konidi communicating Danae’s ethereal and mystical nature and Aleiferopoulus showing Panos’ increasing confusion and desperation as things progress. The scenery and cinematography are two big selling points, with the forest being a huge presence in the film. There is a simple colour palette of brown, white and lots of green, which is creatively used by Nikolakakis. As ever, I urge you to seek out smaller, independent and international films, which are worth our support during this time. There are plenty on offer, through virtual cinemas and on demand, without the need to leave our homes.
ENTWINED OPENS IN VIRTUAL THEATRES (including Laemmle LA and Alamo NYC) ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 28 2020, WITH A NORTH AMERICAN VOD RELEASE TO FOLLOW ON SEPTEMBER 8.