Konstantinos Koutsolitas is a visual effects supervisor for American films like Guardians of the Galaxy and 300: The Rise of an Empire. You might have guessed by his name that he is Greek, so it is natural that his first directing effort would be Greek. The Winter is about a struggling writer who tries to hide his failures that he left behind in London from his noisy and intrusive family. Dimitri Gounaras (Vangelis Mourikis) moves back to the deserted ancestral home of his father, which has been abandoned for some time. There is madness in the house, or perhaps just in members of his family, and there are ghosts lurking, real or imagined.
The film meanders back and forth from a slacker comedy to a dreary existential nightmare. It references H.P. Lovecraft and The Shining most directly. It plays out with tenuous reality evolving into out-and-out animated dream images. The imagery is sometimes raw and sometimes playful. There are lots of making-of documentaries included which show how much care was given to the imagery.
It stands up pretty well to many supernatural or ghost stories from other nations, but the most important thing about this is that it is Greek. We don’t get a lot of Greek films on the world market lately. That isn’t true of Bollywood films from India or extreme hardcore horror from Japan and China. Most foreign cinema is dictated by past successes, and it has been a long time since Greek cinema had a big hit in the world market. I’m afraid this is the case again, which isn’t to say it isn’t good. So I would suggest if you have any Greek friends, you should get on the phone and demand they rush out and buy this DVD. A lot of the film embraces things about living in Greece, the food and culture only peripherally.
Mostly it is about the journey of this shabby, funny young man who descends into a kind of madness while living in the abandoned house. In the extras we talk to the parents of the film maker. They recount their real experiences in the house. The real people are completely convinced there are real ghosts, physically violent ghosts. There is no doubt in my mind these simple, honest people are telling real stories about this very house. They were attacked by a giant invisible creature. Belief in ghosts is a widespread phenomenon. Currently, belief in ghost rests at around 42%. This is debatable, but it’s safe to say that there are many people who have a reason to have a real belief in ghosts. I’m one of those unlucky people who has never seen one. I really would like to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe. It is a kind of madness to believe, but maybe it is real. In fact this movie suggests that madness is the real source of the problem with the young man. Go get a bunch of your Greek friends and watch the movie, and decide for yourselves.