The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea

In a small eel-farming town in the west of Greece, two women live solitary lives while dreaming of getting away.

Elisabeth is a once-ambitious policewoman forced to relocate from Athens ten years ago and now living a joyless, hung-over life; Rita is the quiet, mysterious sister of a lounge singer in the local disco. When a sudden death upsets the town and turns the local community upside-down, the two women who had been ignoring each other’s existence begin drifting towards each other. As the secrets hidden in the swamps begin to surface, they will have a chance to become each other’s saviours.

Cast Angeliki Papoulia, Youla Boudali, Christos Passalis, Argyris Xafis, Thanassis Dovris, Laertis Malkotsis, Maria Filini, Michalis Kimonas, Christian Culbida, Michalis Mathioudakis, Laertis Vassiliou, Alkistis Poulopoulou, Thanos Tokakis, Katerina Helmi, Areti Seidaridou, Romanos Kalokyris, Vassilis Darmas, Marianna Bozantzoglou, Vlassis Mizalos, Ektor Liatsos, Haris Attonis, Nikos Diotis, Vassilis Svigos

World premiere69th Berlin International Film Festival – Panorama

Festivals Karlovy Vary IFF 2019, BFI London IFF 2019 (DARE), BiFan 2019 – Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (International Competition 2019), São Paulo IFF 2019, FANTASIA International Film Festival 2019, Bildrausch Filmfest Basel – Cutting Edge International Competition 2019, Beaune Thriller IFF 2019 – Sang Neuf Competition, Istanbul IFF 2019, Crossing Europe EFF 2019, Transilvania IFF, Split MFF 2019, New Horizons IFF 2019, Haifa IFF 2019, Ayvalik IFF 2019, Bogota IFF 2019, Thessaloniki IFF 2019, Cork IFF, 2019, Roma IFF 2019, Denver IFF, etc.

2 Hellenic Film Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Actress) and 12 nominations: Best Film (Maria Drandaki, Titus Kreyenberg, Ellen Havenith, Olle Wirenhed, Anthony Muir), Director (Syllas Tzoumerkas), Screenplay (Youla Boudali, Syllas Tzoumerkas), Actress (Angeliki Papoulia), Actor (Christos Passalis), Supporting Actress (Youla Boudali), Editing (Andreas Wodraschke), Costume Design (Marli Aliferi), Music (Jean-Paul Wall, drog_A_tek, Phoebus), Sound (Marco Vermaas, Felix Siewert, Nikos Exarchos, Persefoni Miliou, Stefanos Konstantinidis), Make-up (Evi Zafiropoulou, Linda Boije af Gennäs), Effects (Luuk Meijer, Evi Zafiropoulou, Linda Boije af Gennäs).


2019, dcp, 121'

The latest film from Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas (‘A Blast’) stars Angeliki Papoulia (‘Dogtooth,’ ‘The Lobster’) in one of her best roles yet. The destinies of two very different women in the Greek boondocks slowly intertwine in The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea (To thavma tis thalassas ton Sargasson). Part psychodrama and part Greek tragedy, this is an uneven but always intriguing look at life in rural western Greece, where an eel farm is practically the only local industry left keeping the entire community from going under. (…) Tzoumerkas does masterfully paint the stifling atmosphere of a godforsaken town where women’s dreams and potential have come to die. With a score that ventures into thriller territory, menacing zooms and eerily calm overheads shots, the film evokes a place that looks like a swamp ready to slowly engulf everything that comes near it.
— Boyd Van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter

***** While the film is saturated with Biblical quotes, icons of saints, and church choir songs, its form attends equally to the lowly human, animal, and nature. Pacifying all forms of life under the flag of future deliverance, the promise that each being will attain their most perfect form and self, The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea provides an convergence between religious submission and humanistic agency
— Savina Petkova, Electric Ghost

*** A drumbeat of anxiety and impending violence thuds insistently from this opaque, disquieting spectacle from Greek film-maker Syllas Tzoumerkas – who has previously directed challenging films such as Homeland (2010) and A Blast (2014) and was screenwriter on the excellent male-midlife breakdown satire Suntan (2016). Tzoumerkas’s movie goes out on a creaking limb of weirdness. It’s a bizarre, occasionally almost Lynchian film, alienated and alienating, interspersed – initially, at any rate – with dream-visions of biblical scenes in the burning sun. Its borderline preposterous narrative may simply be the pretext for its tableau of strangeness and bacchanal of dysfunction. (…) A film that generates a lot more heat than light, a psycho-melodrama burning itself to ash in the sun.
— Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian 

A Blast director Syllas Tzoumerkas returns with an agitated, atmospheric and sometimes confounding exercise in modern Greek tragedy. Tzoumerkas’ latest invites comparisons to the loopier, trash-skirting genre outings of Herzog or Lynch, with the gradual unpeeling of layered madness and corruption in the sleepy working town of Missolonghi occasionally calling to mind an aggressively sunburned Twin Peaks“.
— Guy Lodge, Variety

The Miracle features two terrific female performances – one from co-writer Youla Boudali, the other from Angeliki Papoulia, [who] vibrates at an unnerving pitch that makes Nicole Kidman’s similarly styled characterisation in Destroyer look positively half-baked.[…] Tzoumerkas’s follow-up confirms that he’s a director of some brilliance and daring.”
— Jonathan Romney, Screen

“The third feature by Syllas Tzoumerkas, one of the most original voices of the new Greek cinema, is still fresh from the Berlin Panorama section, but with much different ambitions. The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea, set in the inhospitable surroundings of a sun-parched Messolongi, is a metaphysical thriller loaded with biblical references, an unsettling and disturbing meditation on the concept of paradise featuring two women in profound existential crisis: Elisabeth, (a master Angeliki Papoulia) a disgraced policewoman confined in the province by her superiors following an unfortunate anti-terrorist operation; and Rita (the brave Youla Boudali, also co-screenwriter), a painful figure of a martyr besieged by visions of a mystical background. Tzoumerkas’ cinema is one that’s not afraid of risk or ridicule, one which in fact, has the clear intent of forcing the limits of both the police genre and the auteur film genre, seducing with the skill of its performers and its disquieting aesthetic choices that are never banal. After Homeland (2010) and A Blast (2014), The Miracle of the Sargasso is the third – and more complex – chapter of Tzoumerkas’ ideal trilogy on contemporary Greece.”.
— Massimo Lechi, Il Ragazzo Selvaggio

“There is much to admire in Tzoumerkas’ new film. Some of the early scenes, as well as some near the end of the movie, have an epic quality, thanks to Petrus Sjövik’s cinematography and Jean-Paul Wall’s orchestral score, as well as the dirty Athens setting and the corrupt beauty of the coastal town. Scenes of Elisabeth’s dreams, which overlap and mix with those of Rita’s, with their biblical imagery and unique visual style, transcend the film’s primary themes and add a mystical layer. Dedicated performances, especially Papoulia’s and Boudali’s, provide a powerful, dramatic gravity”
— Vladan Petkovic, Cineuropa

Η φωνή του αιμόφυρτου κρατούμενου σκεπάζει χιλιόμετρα και συνειδήσεις, φωνή ενός απρόσμενου προφήτη που εξαγγέλλει μια νεοελληνική Αποκάλυψη. Το μάτι του Θεού, η κάμερα από τον ουρανό που κοιτάζει κάτω, κάθετα, μια μικρή ανθρώπινη κατασκευή που λέγεται «κλειστή κοινωνία», παρατηρεί, έτοιμη να κρίνει και να στείλει την τιμωρία ή την εξιλέωση. Η νέα ταινία του Σύλλα Τζουμέρκα, ένα πυκνό, επιφανειακά στάσιμο κι υπόγεια εκρηκτικό, δραματικό θρίλερ, στήνεται στο ραντεβού της Παλαιάς Διαθήκης με το True Detective κι αυτό είναι, από μόνο του, μια συναρπαστική ιδέα. (…) Σ’ αυτή την ταινία, όπου η βιβλική παραβολή φοράει την πιο λούμπεν μάσκα της, ο Σύλλας Τζουμέρκας αξιοποιεί το γεωγραφικό και κοινωνικό τοπίο του με τον καλύτερο τρόπο. Με τη ζεστή, καυτή φωτογραφία του Πέτρους Σιόβικ, το Μεσολόγγι γίνεται ένας καμβάς τόσο ιδιαίτερος και απόκοσμος που η ομορφιά του μοιάζει ασφυκτική κι επικίνδυνη, αισθήματα που ενισχύει η μουσική των Drogatek, η ωραιότερη κινηματογραφική τους δουλειά ως τώρα. Την εξέλιξη της πλοκής διακόπτουν όνειρα, οράματα, ψυχαναλυτικά και θρησκευτικά μαζί, κάποια πιο πετυχημένα από άλλα, όλα κομμάτια ενός υπαρξιακού παζλ του φόβου. Ο φόβος είναι καθοριστική λέξη σ’ αυτή την ταινία, την τόσο κοντινή, σαν φόρος τιμής σχεδόν, σ’ αυτή τη φάτνη του Φόβου του Κώστα Μανουσάκη που, σε μια γλυκιά σύμπτωση, σε μια εποχή άλλων πολιτικών και κινηματογραφικών παθών για την Ελλάδα, έκανε την πρεμιέρα της στην Berlinale του 1966.
— Λήδα Γαλανού,

Βουτηγμένο στην κορεσμένη, εκτυφλωτική σήψη του Μεσολογγίου, αστυνομικό δράμα στο ξεκίνημα και το φινάλε του, ΤοΘαύμα της Θάλασσας των Σαργασσών περικλείει το πορτρέτο μιας δυναμικής, ασυμβίβαστης, ασταθούς, αθυρόστομης, εκτροχιασμένης από αλκοόλ και ουσίες αστυνομικού, της Ελισάβετ, η οποία διαμένει με τον έφηβο γιο της στην πρωτεύουσα του αυγοτάραχου. (…) Η Ελισάβετ και η Ρίτα ονειρεύονται βιβλικά και υποφέρουν από διαφορετική εκκίνηση. Οι φαντασίες τους σκάνε σαν υπέρλαμπρο, παζολινικό εκκλησίασμα στο καθημερινό ανάθεμα της ράθυμης επαρχιακής πόλης που βαλτώνει κάτω από το βάρος της ιστορίας και της παθογένειάς της.  Ο Σύλλας Τζουμέρκας μετατρέπει το γραφικό σε graphic, ανασύρει από την κόλαση δύο ασυνήθιστους για την ελληνική κινηματογραφία γυναικείους χαρακτήρες, με δυνατές, θαρραλέες ερμηνείες από την Αγγελική Παπούλια και τη Γιούλα Μπούνταλη, αναδεύει με συνεχή ένταση το πολυεπίπεδο υλικό του, αφήνει κάποια αναμμένα φιτίλια και φτιάχνει συνολικά την καλύτερη ταινία του.
— Θοδωρής Κουτσογιαννόπουλος,



directed by
Syllas Tzoumerkas

written by
Youla Boudali, Syllas Tzoumerkas

Maria Drandaki

Titus Kreyenberg, Ellen Havenith, Olle Wirenhed

director of photography
Petrus Sjövik, FSF

Andreas Wodraschke

Jean-Paul Wall, drog_A_tek, Phoebus

production designer
Jorien Sont

costume designer
Marli Aliferi

Marco Vermaas

hair, make-up and SFX make-up designers
Linda Boije af Gennäs, Evi Zafiropoulou

VFX design supervisor
Luuk Meijer, NVX

co-producer Film I Väst
Anthony Muir

associate producer ZDF/ARTE
Meinolf Zurhorst

film commissioner SFI
Yaba Holst

executive producer
Syllas Tzoumerkas

associate producer
Jeroen Beker

1st assistant director
Miltos Ntzounis

production manager
Yannis Karadanis

Homemade Films, unafilm, PRPL, Kakadua Filmproduktion, Film I Väst, ZDF/ARTE, ERT, NOVA

with the support of
Eurimages, Greek Film Center, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Netherlands Film Fund, Netherlands, Film Production Incentive, DFFF, Svenska Filminstitutet, Creative Europe-Media

developed through
A.C.E., Nipkow Program, Berlinale Script Station, Rotterdam-Berlinale Express (Cinemart & Berlinale Co-Production Market)

world sales
New Europe Film Sales

StraDa Films (Greece), Real Fiction (Germany), Against Gravity (Poland), Kino Mediteran (Croatia), etc.

The Hollywood Reporter


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