(Original Title: Strella)
One of the many philosophical questions that remains unanswered is whether life mimics art or art mimics life. When I watched Strella this question crossed my mind. At the end of the film I asked myself, ‘do things like that really happen?’ I was hoping that if there is this level of ‘sickness’ — I know it’s a strong word – it could only be found in a script, in the imaginary world. But no, a month after I watched the movie, I read of an almost identical story in the newspaper, somewhere in Austria – only Strella takes the form of a modern Greek tragedy.
According to Freud, the mind has a really peculiar way to heal its wounds and that’s what the film sets out to show. After 14 years in prison, George is released. In his early fifties he wants to make a clean start. With little money in his pocket and a criminal record, there aren’t many choices left. But he desperately needs to start a new life. First day out of prison, he ends up in a really cheap and filthy hotel in one of the most deprived areas of Athens. There he meets Strella, a transsexual prostitute, with whom he starts a sexual relationship that leads to something more. Strella is totally aware of George’s financial condition and offers him a place to stay. Soon enough the two of them become a couple.
George’s plan to start a new life is based on the fact that he’ll be able to sell his family house that’s located in a village somewhere in the mainland of Greece. In order to get the selling done, George has to go back to his home and face his past. When he arrives there, people treat him surprisingly well; they don’t seem to be afraid of him being an ex-convict. It is here that George’s past is revealed. Fifteen years ago he killed someone, but it was a crime of honour. He did what every father would have done; he did what he thought best to protect his kid or at least that is what he thought.
Strella is a very strong movie for several reasons. It will definitely get under your skin. Leaving my emotional judgement aside, I would say that the plot consists of an essence that most cinephiles always have the time for. Strella has a story that few movies have and a cast that supports it perfectly. It might miss Almodóvar’s aesthetic and the ancient Greek tragedy’s pure catharsis, but it manages to leave a mark on you nonetheless. It’s a low budget film that managed to garner really good reviews and nominations in film festivals. Written and directed by Panos H. Koutras, Strella is the kind of movie that leaves you eager to analyse what you saw.