Atarrabi & Mikelats (2020)

Atarrabi & Mikelats
Director: Eugène Green
Writer: Eugène Green
Based on: Basque mythology
Cast: Saia Hiriart, Lukas Hiriart, Ainara Leemans, Thierry Biscary, Pablo Lasa
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2020

When they were boys, their mother, a powerful witch, brought Atarrabi (Saia Hiriart) and Mikelats (Lukas Hiriart) to the devil (Thierry Biscary) to receive their education. While Mikelats takes to this upbringing, Atarrabi feels stifled in hell and dreams of experiencing the world. But the devil isn’t prepared to let Atarrabi go without taking a prize.

As a lover of fairy tales, I hoped for something very fairtytale like with Atarrabi & Mikelats, and that’s certainly what I got. But it was a fairy tale thoroughly steeped in Christianity/Catholicism that ran on way too long, so it didn’t work for me after all.

The film poster showing two jumping figures drawnin black, one in front of a yellow background, with sunlike rays emanating from their head, the other in front of a blue background with yellow horns.

Atarrabi & Mikelats is an interesting look at Basque mythology and generally at Basque country, especially since it was shot in Euskara. I really enjoyed getting to know the area that way a little, as I enjoyed the introduction to Basque mythology.

But I assume that I would have enjoyed the pre-christianified version of said mythology a lot more than I did the version here. I just have my issues with the catholic church and some of those issues were very present here. The film takes care to align the devil with science, technology and progress, while the good (and of course prettier, to add a dose of lookism) Atarrabi literally states that he is “not modern” as a point of pride. It is probably no surprise in that case, that women don’t really have any space in this world at all.

Atarrabi (Saia Hiriart) and Mikelats (Lukas Hiriart) meeting at night.

In addition to that, Green chose an acting style that had the actors look straight at the camera and deliver their text in a monotone. That can be interesting – for a while. For a two hour film, it just got a bit boring.

Visually the film deals in absolutes as much as the story. Mikelats is always dressed in red, Atarrabi in white/grey. Generally they all have their colors. This gives the film many opportunities to show us some great images – and it does. But overall, the film left me more annoyed at than appreciative of what it is trying to do.

A group of devils dressed in red, dancing around a goat-headed man.

Summarizing: didn’t work for me.

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