02
Sep
09

The Lazy Ones (Οι τεμπέληδες της εύπορης κοιλάδας): Welcome To The House Of Sleep.

The Lazy Ones (of the Valley of Plenty)  (Οι τεμπέληδες της εύπορης κοιλάδας Nikos Panagiotopoulos 1978)

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“Does anyone know which month it is?”

So, let’s assume that due to an unexpected event we end up with all the riches of the world to support ourselves, forever. Let’s assume that there is a house somewhere in the province, beautiful like no other, with countless rooms, balconies and gardens for us to inhabit and roam through. And let us assume that there is also a maid that will cater for all our needs. Is this Eden? Is this Death? Is it Art? Is it simply Decay?

“When are we leaving here?”

Albert Cossery wrote The Lazy Ones, on which the film is based, in 1948. He was described as a “dandy anarchist” throughout his life. He notoriously lived and died as though time had frozen around him. He had no possessions apart from his books.

His ideas and works are infused by his complete contempt for the human struggle to accumulate material possessions and against the lust for material consumption, together with an alert consciousness of the abuse of authority, the injustice practised between classes and the fake façade of social formalities.

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“Why are you awake?! – We are awake only to eat.”

At the same time, he considered idleness a virtue; in contrast to laziness, he saw idleness as time for contemplation and realisation that was being forsaken in the quest for earthy possessions.

Panagiotopoulos chose this book and transformed it into this masterful film that won the Locarno Festival Prize in 1978.

“How can we be happy, when we know you are working?!”

The Lazy Ones is a mockery of the idleness of the upper-middle class. That is the obvious first observation, and a simplistic one. Most of the criticism regarding the film seems oblivious to the ideas of Cossery, though it is these ideas that render the film not easily understood. It is not only the middle class that is mocked; it is not only they who choose to stay in the House of Sleep. The servant girl – the working class – is complicit, too.

“It is unbearable to be alone,”

she confesses to one of the younger sons – also her lover – pleading for him to take her with him. One shot of her cooking even suggests she puts something in the family’s food to keep them catatonic. This is more than black and white leftist politics. We rush to categorize this film as a political statement because of the uncomfortable knowledge that a part of us is complicit, or at least complacent, too.

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“No love is better than our peace and quiet.”

To me, it even fits the pattern of the neo-Greek, post-war mothers and fathers, who, during the last decades, have been doing everything possible to castrate their children, making us lazy, unwilling to get a hard job, to have mature relationships (if any), to pursue independent living and housing, even to own a washing machine! Their earlier poverty and war trauma drove them to an intense focus on the material that has been sabotaging our generation. They are dreaming of the House of Sleep: where their children will never go away, never have to face the world, never leave them or stop depending on them, never hurt, never get disappointed, never take risks, never leave and never live.

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This is why this work will never lose its beauty and power over the years. It is so honest in all its macabre surrealism that it will be differently re-interpreted by each era. What was obviously a comment on the decadence of the bourgeoisie in the 70s, with or without the complicity of the working class, is to me a direct comment on the suffocating, overprotective comfortable families and societies of now.

Film synopsis

A rich family of a father and three young sons inherits and moves to a magnificent house somewhere in the country. The maid of the deceased follows them there. The beginning of their new life is idyllic: long walks, beautiful food, endless wine, captured in long, slow-moving dolly shots and the cinematography’s warm summer afternoon colours. All windows are always open, and air is flowing everywhere. Slowly the months start to pass, and the men become all the more inactive and idle. They start sleeping longer and longer until they wake only to eat – and one of them not even for that. Their relationships and the house gradually turn claustrophobic, the air and the light disappear, together with their civilised manners and language. They lose their touch with the outside world, their fiancés and friends and their taste for food, sex and everything else. The maid is the only creature in the house that endlessly moves, cleaning, tidying, serving them, physically carrying them, even fulfilling their passive and pathetic sexual requests. A camp artist neighbour inquires about their condition in awe, considering them “real artists” for sleeping for 7 years.

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In a moment of defiance, the youngest son decides to try and leave the house to go and work. He meets the furious despair of the rest and is coerced to stay. In the end he tries again. He practises waking up for days until one morning, with the maid by his side, he finally leaves the house. He will only make a few steps outside the grounds before tiredness takes him over. He lies against a tree. The film ends there. No one will ever leave the house and no one will come in. Decay rules.

– ulalume

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0 Responses to “The Lazy Ones (Οι τεμπέληδες της εύπορης κοιλάδας): Welcome To The House Of Sleep.”



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