Morning Patrol [Proini peripolos] (1987)

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. “

It starts with the opening sentence of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.

A young woman wanders through desolate wastelands soliloquizing to herself.  She spots a man sitting by a fire, creeps up on him…

And murders him.

She goes through his things, takes what she wants, then settles down by his fire.

And if we hadn’t already, we’ve now got a good idea what to expect from this film.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of any other Greek SF films.  But in certain respects it is rather familiar.  Once again, we are in a slow, beautifully composed, Tarkovsky-esque post-Apocalyptic world, where the real threats come from deep within us.  We never learn much about whatever it was that destroyed civilization:  the closest we come is when one of the characters answers that question by saying “what happened here?…  Same that happened everywhere else.” Although there are a few hints that some sort of plague might be involved, one which strips its victims of most of their memories.

The story changes once she finds a deserted city, where the lights still burn and classic movies show in empty cinemas.  Only it is a death trap, where the sinister Morning Patrol murders those who enter the city.  But she eventually finds an unexpected — and somewhat unwilling — ally.

The sequences in the city have a nicely surreal edge.  In the midst of the rubble, Christmas lights still burn, old movies play on the TVs and there are places so well-kept that it seems as if their occupants had wandered away just hours earlier.  Then there is one outstanding (and somewhat creepy) scene where she is apparently alone in an abandoned apartment and a toy radio controlled car starts “watching” her, with no sign of its operator.

This is a decidedly black film about a world where civilization has completely fallen apart, the survivors are at each others throats, and the only vestige of order left is dedicated to killing everyone else.  And yet there is a tiny glimmer of hope, not because of some artificial happy ending, but because the two main characters are still trying, still believe that maybe — just maybe — there will be something better in the West when they reach the sea.

While this one was beautifully shot, well-acted and meticulously made, most people will find it far too bleak for their tastes.  It reminds me a little of Konstantin Lopushansky’s Dead Man’s Letters, although in many respects, the world it presents is even bleaker: not physically, but because of the breakdown of everything that makes us human  

Those with a taste for art films and a willingness to accept a slower pace will appreciate this one more.

Just don’t watch it expecting a post-Apocalyptic thrill ride of an action movie.

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