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"Little Fish", great expectations at Berlinale

A hitman moonlighting at a bakery in order to raise the cash to save the man that saved him, is the premise on which “Little Fish,” by Yannis Economides assaults viewers in true film noir vernacular.

“Little Fish” ia a film that follows the dark forebodings of the auteur's former works, but widens and broadens his depth of field. One could say that it breaks with the Greek “weird wave” scene, that characterized a lot of Greek productions hitting foreign film festivals in recent years. The film seems slated for distinction, but the moods of foreign critics can't be gauged, especially for such a film grounded in dialogue, as it is.

In the movie, Vagelis Mourikis is Stratos, an assassin that always repays debts, is already seen as a favorite for the lead actor award. By night, Stratos works in a bread factory but by day, he’s a professional hit man. He needs the cash to free Leonidas from prison because the latter once saved his life when he was behind bars. For Stratos, this is simply a question of honor. There is no clue as to how many people he’s killed, but he still has a conscience. He attentively looks after, eight-year-old Katerina, a neighbour’s child, as well as, her mother and an uncle. At last he has enough money for the prison break-out, but an unexpected turn of events takes place, one of them having to do with Katerina’s psychological and physical safety. Stratos must act, even if this means following one bad turn after another.

In his fourth feature film Yannis Economides makes use of the character of the detached contract killer in order to explore a sad and desolate world. The forlornness of his protagonist reflects the desperation of a society which has given up on itself and its values and has allowed the mask of civilisation to fall away.

“Little Fish” is competing in the 64th Berlinale against Yann Demange’s “71” (UK), “Aimer, boire et chanter” by Alain Resnais (France), “Aloft” by Claudia Llhosa (Spain, Canada, France), “Die geliebten Schwestern” by Dominik Graf (Germany), Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (US, opening film) and George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” (US).