Berlinale 2021 review: Moon, 66 Questions (Jacqueline Lentzou)

A young woman, long estranged from her upper-class family, has to return to Athens and live with them in order to look after her father who is painfully recovering from a major stroke. At first glance, the theme of Moon, 66 Questions seems to make its director Jacqueline Lentzou walk in the steps of the authors of the Greek Weird Wave from a decade ago: Yorgos Lanthimos, Panos Koutras (Strella), Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg). Another noteworthy bond lies in the fact that like those of her predecessors, Lentzou’s film is carried by the strong performance of her lead actress. Sofia Kokkali (who collaborated with Lentzou on two of her short films) conveys a remarkably wide range of emotions through her gaze, facial expressions and body language. This allows Moon, 66 Questions to stay away from tedious or overexplicit writing and directing, while remaining emotionally powerful.

The name of the woman played by Kokkali, as well as the name of her father, connects Lentzou’s feature debut to a whole other era of Greek cultural history. She is Artemis, like the goddess, and he is Paris, like the man whose actions led to the Trojan War. Artemis’s linkage to the mythological character bearing the same name is initially the clearest. Artemis was the goddess of the wilderness, and the movie heroine is indeed more of a wild soul than a tame one, as her behavior towards her family shows in every group scene. Yet it is quite clear from early on that this roughness of character in Artemis does not mean the film will follow the path of bitterness, tragedy, and cynicism often taken by the Greek Weird Wave. As it occurs, Lentzou treasures life over death, love over hate and reconstruction over pathos. Throughout her movie she refuses to linger excessively on hard-to-live or hard-to-watch moments. Instead she tells a simple and straight story, of one person having to learn to live again, another one helping him, and both of them succeeding together.

In this perspective even the uncovering of a long-kept intimate secret is not a source of anger but affection. Through this disclosure, Moon, 66 Questions relates in its last chapter with other attributes of its two tutelary figures from Greek mythology. Like the forbidden and clandestine love of the Paris from mythology for Helen of Troy, Paris in the film had to live for many years with the weight and sorrow of an impossible and prohibited love. As for Artemis, she was also the goddess of childbirth, thus a midwife; and Artemis of Moon, 66 Questions helps her father bring something into the world: his secret, which he will now be allowed to share with someone who accepts and welcomes it rather than bear it alone. Hence, in a beautifully subtle and touching final scene, where Lentzou’s gentle filmmaking is at its best, Artemis’s care transforms Paris’s recovery, symbolized by their tender hug, into a treble – not only physical but also spiritual (he is more at peace with himself) and mutual (he is entitled to share it with another human being).