Seductive, immersive, and engaging, Suntan is one of those movies that you will remember. And it doesn’t matter how old are you because it works just as well on both young, old and especially middle-aged. It captured perfectly that vibrant Greek atmosphere in the summer. A time when anything and everything might happen and the air is full of possibilities. Well, for some at least. And that’s at the center of this nominally drama with strong romance and comedy influences. Ultimately, the best description might be a character study. A character study with a lot of nudity. And when I say a lot of nudity, I mean like really a lot.
Indiscriminate nudity as we will bask in the glory of both male and female full-frontal nudity. Suntan is set on a dreamy Greek island showing us over nine months what happens when the tourists aren’t there. We’re following a depressed middle-aged doctor as he rediscovers the lust for life and loses his grip on reality. And while on the surface we will be dazzled by strong imagery of naked bodies and dreamy beaches, underneath it all is a deeply subversive current.
It leaves the examination up to the viewer, enabling him to explore different aspects of the story. The stuck-in-a-rut concept is often explored in movies. However, here I would emphasize the kickstarter of the “joie de vivre” or exuberant enjoyment of life. The question why we need that outside influence, that foreign force to enact influence on our life for something to change. I will leave the analysis for the end of the review not to bore you right away.
Kostis is a depressed 42-year-old who just got to a sleepy Greek island of Antiparos to start working as the island’s doctor. Since it’s winter, his patients are mostly elderly residents with the usual health problems. The summer, however, is a totally different story. One of his first patients is Anna, a beautiful and young girl who just fell of a bike. She asks him to join her and her friends on a nearby nudist beach and Kostis accepts the invitation. He’s a shy and timid guy but this will soon change as he relaxes and starts partying with the gang. This will, however, lead to some other changes.
In case you think that all this hedonism and parties look too wild in Suntan, I assure you they are not. Certain Greek islands have a reputation of party towns where people just let loose. The southern part of the island of Corfu, Kavos is one of them. And that’s the one everybody knows is just all sex, alcohol, and drugs. Think of how many hidden ones are there. Anywhoo, let’s get back to the movie. The cinematography is simply stunning as we’re going from one beach to another while following beautiful and naked guys and girls.
Opposite of them we have Kostis, a balding, aging, overweight, and socially awkward guy trying to fit in. The contrast is really stark focusing our attention on the questions of not only aging and romance but also life in general. It’s almost the same as between winter and summer months in the village. The finale could have been better but then again it could have been much worse. So, it’s best we leave it as is.
In the end, Suntan has a lot to offer and it doesn’t come off as pretentious or aimless, a frequent problem with similar indie movies. Plus it has immense replay value albiet it’s quite shallow when it comes to explaining things. It may not really deserve as high a rating as Rabbit Reviews 9, but that magical summer vibe along with tasteful nudity and humor nudged it over the line. I mean, Gaspar Noé’s Seul Contre Tous is an infinitely better and deeper character study but you want to kill yourself after it.
In the end, I just want to draw your attention to the question we discussed briefly earlier in the review. So, we have a guy who’s depressed and stuck in a rut, without any hopes or plans of getting out. Obviously, he’s scarred by past trauma and is unable to self-diagnose or do something to get out of this horrible situation. Now, things get interesting. Is his situation really that bad? At least he knows what’s going on, unlike, for example, Takis, who’s made it his lifestyle. But then again, Is Takis aware of what’s going on or is he just driven by his primal instincts? Kostis does lack self-awareness but maybe exactly because of this he’s so likable? What about Takis then? Is this self-awareness the thing that’s preventing us from living out our lives fully?
And finally, why do we need that outside influence for something to change in our lives? I submit to you the reason is the official system of values and our subsequent definition of our personality. To accommodate the system we suppress our “dynamic” personality and force a static one, relinquishing the control of our life to it. The famous phrase cog in a machine is the most adequate one here. A cog cannot simply jump out of the machine and be free. It needs something to take it out. This is where our little firestarter comes in, releasing Kostis from the machine. And just one last thing. Was this just the trigger and would the whole cycle Kostis went through eventually happen triggered by something else? Is he doomed to roll that rock up the mountain for eternity? Interesting questions to think about. Enjoy.
Director: Argyris Papadimitropoulos
Writer: Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Syllas Tzoumerkas
Cast: Makis Papadimitriou, Elli Tringou, Hara Kotsali, Milou Van Groesen, Dimi Hart, Marcus Collen, Yannis Tsortekis, Pavlos Orkopoulos
Fun Facts: Suntan won Best International Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3954660/