Panayiotopoulos’s ‘Slothful Ones’ still fresh 25 years on

How is it possible that four people, a father and his three sons, live in a mansion and stay absolutely indolent for seven years? A maid is their only connection to what we would call real life. Twenty-five years after the first screening of »The Slothful Ones of the Fertile Valley,» a film by Nikos Panayiotopoulos which is again playing at local cinemas, the story it relates is still fresh. Time has worked in favor of the film. The references to the late 1970s, when the film was released, may have dated, but the humor, irony and sarcasm that form an essential part of the film’s story remain vivid. The characters’ everyday life is artificial, for all they do with any consistency is sleep and, at the beginning at least, dine in almost ritualistic fashion. Everything is taken care of by the female servant. The very notion of having to work seems nightmarish to the film’s four characters. In their minds, even physical movement seems perverse; they rarely move and their bodies grow numb. What does this story and its characters stand for? What could they possibly symbolize? Film critics back in 1978 spoke of the indolence and decadence of the bourgeoisie. At the time, the director himself claimed that his film was political and that its aim was to draw attention to the corrosive effect of languor and slackness across all social strata. Seen from a contemporary glance, the film’s allegorical connotations have subsided and the film is better appreciated as telling a light, humorous story. Its ingenious script and atmosphere make an impression to this day. Everything is carefully orchestrated by the director. Andreas Beltis’s photography casts a unique, milky light through the film. The acting is another pleasure to watch. Vassilis Diamantopoulos in the role of the father, Yiorgos Dialegmenos, Dimitris Poulikakos and Nikitas Tsakiroglou as the sons, and Olga Karlatou as the pretty maid make up an excellent cast.