The park in Park refers to the Olympic complex in Athens, created for the Olympic Games in 2004, which is now, as presented in Exarchou’s muscular film, a wasteland, taken over by kids. The kids are something like a cross between Lord of the Flies and Bicycle Thieves. On the one hand they have an endearing can-do energy, on the other they are malicious and combative. These kids have their own games, with their own winners and losers, games they play on the Olympic field of dreams. It’s a telling parable for the way in which glory fades. In this case, Greek glory, but, the film suggests in two vivid sequences, Europe’s too.
Park ends up following the lives of two of the kids, Dimitris and Anna. Dimitris has a job in a stonemason’s yard, a job his mother has got for him by sleeping with the boss of the yard. But the boss soon lays him off. Dimitris starts to drift. He and Anna have a fling. Anna is as lost as her lover. In the first sequence which clearly squares the fate of the kids with that of a dehumanised European modernity, the two gatecrash a drunken party of British tourists, who are indulging in some full-on orgiastic hedonism. The two Greeks join in and no-one seems to care what the interlopers do. Personality, friendship, human contact: there’s no need for any of this. The tourists’ behaviour apes that of the kids. Anna is nothing more than a body, but that’s enough for free booze and partying. Later, after the couple split up, Dimitris repeats the gate-crashing trick, this time with a group of middle-aged Nordic businessmen and women. All of these people come to Greece in order to indulge, to reduce themselves to the state of animals. Jens, a businessman who drunkenly befriends Dimitris, howls like a wolf. The metaphor, located in the midst of the film’s dreamy narrative, is more potent than it perhaps sounds on paper. Exarchou’s camera lingers as Dimitris is caught, Hamlet-like, between conscience and action, whilst he decides whether or not to take advantage of the sozzled businessman.
Meanwhile, the kids continue their games at the park. They are a lost generation, who have nothing better to do. Anna appears to drift towards prostitution. Dimitris becomes increasingly unhinged. Park, with its hand-held intimacy, gets right into to the heart of the problem. In a way, the film feels like a counterpoint to Ade’s Toni Erdmann. Europe on the brink of retreating into barbarism. The Olympic games, that great symbol of youthful ambition, revealed to be nothing more than a symbol, stripped of any value. so that all that’s left are empty stands, grassed-over arenas, dead swimming pools. The hollowness of the show revealed for all to see.