(Original Greek title: Ο Μαγνήτης)
No matter how many times you watch The Magnet you always get caught up trying to put your finger on an on-going theme, a specific philosophy or some important message that Angeliki Coconi’s short film might be hinting at. Around halfway through, you always come to terms with the primitive fact that you’re watching a bunch of Greek guys live and talk and there’s no single, simple message to be found – just conversations, interactions and madness. And what message can be found out of madness?
Well, perhaps madness is a message and a cultural philosophy in itself – it was undoubtedly the driving force behind the whole show. If this is true, and if madness can be seen as a theme in the film, then there are definitely a number of conclusions to be drawn regarding where this short film takes its viewers, what it exposes to the filmmaker and where it leaves all those people who made the film what it was. For me, The Magnet perhaps serves best as a cultural lesson. A very distinct madness is displayed and presented throughout and its foundation lies in an extreme lack of explanation.
Nothing is explained, nothing is ever really questioned. Everything is accepted or ignored. This would not be acceptable anywhere else, it’s something very Mediterranean and very Greek. There is a distinct cultural humour forever present in the film and is conveyed through each one of its colourful and somewhat eccentric characters – a way of conversing that requires no elaboration.
In one scene an old man sits in a little chair by his window, smoking. He explains a theory he holds which involves piercing every cigarette he has ever smoked. He explains why he has always done this and why he will never stop. He goes on by stating that doing this will increase his life expectancy by one hour. This in itself appears to be a totally random theory with little to no logic. The filmmaker remarks that if this hour is used appropriately, then it might be worth it. He replies ‘it’s enough time to have a kid’ – no questions asked.
In another scene, a man approaches an old woman in a café. Looking up, the old woman shouts enthusiastically, ‘Long time no see!’ The man replies, ‘I made snails!’ with the same enthusiasm and with no response to the woman’s greeting. She thinks about it and responds, ‘I made snails did I?’ a moment of confusion is followed by ‘no, I did’ and the conversation moves on without another word.
And the film is carried by these small fragments and discussions which, from the outside, seem to mean very little, but from the inside carry a beauty that comes with taking very little too seriously, turning life into something that shouldn’t be thought about too hard. A whole mentality and way of living can be found here. A life content without too many questions, happy in the knowledge that not everything necessarily needs or has an answer.
At the same time, the moments exposed to us over the thirty minutes running time succeed in proving to the filmmaker that her theory is correct, that she does attract the craziest people, that she does possess what she calls, ‘The Magnet’. The film serves as an exploration of a madness that Angeliki Coconi has known all her life, while presenting her world to others through the camera.
As the film progress, Coconi is seen more and more in front of the screen. She becomes more of a participant in the film, showing a deeper realization – something more than what she initially set out to prove. It is almost as though she begins to come to terms with the fact that she attracts these people because she is one of them. They are drawn to one of their own.
Much of The Magnet’s appeal lies in its whole and undeniable truthfulness. While this truth is further emphasised by the lack of script and the use of a handheld camera, the roots of its hilarity and beauty can be found in the lives of the real people who gave us a fraction of their time and a few brief moments of pure and honest life. In a way, the viewer is exposed to a refreshing outlook, a madness and a mentality that says so much about a country and a cultural philosophy shaped around accepting the weirdness and not delving in too deep.
Watch a trailer of The Magnet here:
The Magnet at IMDb
Angeliki Coconi at IMDb
Awards won by The Magnet at angelikicoconi.com
Angeliki Coconi’s website
Welcome to the madhouse: The Magnet Angeliki Coconi was interviewed by Tim Hayes for the Indie Fest, on the occasion of her 2010 Award of Merit