When Attenberg made the festival rounds in 2011, it seemed easy to pigeonhole Athina Rachel Tsangari as merely part of whatever cinematic weirdness was taking hold of Greece. The Capsule – to say nothing of the other films she’s either produced (Pearlblossom Hwy.) or acted in (Before Midnight) since then – complicate that reading considerably. A 35-minute tale of high fashion and lesbian vampires commissioned by an art collector, it features zero male characters and nearly as little dialogue but an abundance of slow-mo sequences and hand-drawn animation. Nearly everything that occurs in its non-narrative is bizarre to the point of making no immediate sense – a procession of goats on leashes, a spontaneous cover of “A Horse with No Name” – but also utterly captivating in how sensual and low-key it is.
The hushed atmosphere evoked by Tsangari and her all-female cast alternately brings to mind a monastery and a cultist’s compound, with the handful of disposable underlings and their immortal matriarch playing off of each other in increasingly dark ways. Suspending nearly every narrative convention allows for a strangely immersive suspension of disbelief as well: in making no pretenses toward linear storytelling, Tsangari has freed the way for a largely sensory experience that feels like part of an appealingly bizarre cycle with no end in sight. If this is an experiment, its successful results are of the sort we’d be lucky to see replicated more often.