Nikitas Kontaxis (Vangelis Mourikis) is a reclusive farmer, living and working in a forest in Northern Greece. Not long after a mudslide threatens his home, a young man on a motorcycle turns up at Nikitas’s doorstep, as if he, too, was washed up with the heavy rainfall. Revealing himself to be Nikitas’s son, John Doukas (Argyris Pandazaras) presents his estranged father with the notice of his mother’s death and her will, entitling him to 50 per cent of Nikitas’s property. As the two men struggle over the future of their shared land, they soon realise that whatever their decision, it will affect far more than their strained relationship.

Giorgos Karvelas’s breathtaking cinematography contextualises the protagonists in their environment. Through artful framing, the presumed hierarchy is challenged and man’s place in nature excavated. The lush colours of the forest stand in stark contrast to the bare imagery of the mining field, making the viewer painfully aware of their sacrifices.

Digger works simultaneously as a personal story and as an allegory for national and global concerns. There are moments in the film that stand out for their singular purity. While talking to one of his chickens, Nikitas berates the other hens for interrupting their conversation. Then there are elements that seem comparatively callow. The introduction of a love interest for Johnny appears to be a mere means to give his character the opportunity to talk, rather than to drive the plot in any way.

Georgis Grigorakis’s intentions are noble and he has a deep respect for all of his characters where filmmakers before him have judged too quickly. Yet despite the acute currency of the topic, there is little of this film we haven’t seen before. To borrow the titular metaphor, the film doesn’t dig deep enough to make a lasting impact. It just scratches the surface of a country’s struggle to regain its sense of identity.

★★★☆☆

Selina Sondermann

Digger does not have a UK release date set.

For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.

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