‘Digger’, the feature film debut by Greek writer and director Georgis Grigorakis, is the well-known story of a local eccentric who faces off against mercenaries desperate to acquire and tear down his property.
Nikitas (Vangelis Mourikis) is an aging farmer who lives alone in a mountain hut in northern Greece, where the trees block the sunlight and the air drips with moisture. Along with his drinking neighbors, he resists the advancing mining company, but his struggle is disrupted when his estranged adult son, Johnny (Argyris Panadazaras), appears and demands compensation for his share of the land.
This default setting, in which an individual struggles with the forces of modernization that are wreaking havoc on the environment and phasing out the traditional way of life, is also set in films such as “Aquarius” (2016) and “Dead Pigs” (2018). Against those inventive and formidable dramas, “Digger” doesn’t really stand out — perhaps because the brief David and Goliath conflict doesn’t yield satisfyingly spicy results.
Grigorakis describes the film as a ‘western’, with motorcycles taking the place of horses and muddy forest areas instead of empty plains. However, the brooding male confrontation between father and son is the biggest claim on that label, with the intergenerational divide also complicating the film’s anti-capitalist stance.
Years ago, Johnny’s mother left Nikitas, their rural abode and their unconventional lifestyle to raise Johnny in what she considered a normal environment. Abandoned, Nikitas is fully committed to preserving the land. When Johnny returns destitute decades later, after his mother’s death, he considers that devotion a testament to the ignorance and callousness of a mad old man.
These views are turned upside down over the course of the film, as the two men work side by side, gradually revealing their unique skills and dilemmas. This makes for a predictably redeeming result, yes, but it also goes to show that choosing the right resistance — like escaping a puddle of quicksand — can be counterintuitive.
Not judged. In Greek, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. In theatres.