Keimena #35: Louomenoi (Bathers)
by Eva Stefani

Monday August 14, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Louomenoi (Bathers), 2008, Greece, 46 min.
Director: Eva Stefani

The title of Eva Stefani’s Bathers points to a painterly tradition that emerged in the nineteenth century alongside the advent of leisure, the nudist movement, and love for nature. Its most famous examples are the Bathers of Edgar Degas or Paul Cézanne.

Although the medium is now cinema, Stefani documents the practice of medicinal bathing in the spas of Edipsos, Philippi, and Ikaria. The bathers are aged, but act like teenagers. During their summer holiday they forget their winter life, with its clear social roles. They immerse themselves in the mineral water springs and they sing all the time, yet deep down they fear death, not knowing if they will meet again next summer.

Eva Stefani does not merely follow her bathers through “observational cinema,” as she says, nor does she simply “document” the Greek spas, letting the film function as a “mirror of reality.” Instead, with her aesthetic choices, she manages to break through the limits of documentary. On the one hand, the film records a specific historical time, 2008, as the crisis looms on the horizon. On the other, she allows a great depth of time to unfold, as the characters seem to repeat the same summer, like a ritual, for the past three decades. The historical is thus intertwined with the timeless nature of repetition.

This is probably why the Bathers—who do not merely go into the mud but look as if they were made of clay—seem to become an allegory of the very phenomenon of life.

—Maria Oikonomou, Research Associate and lecturer in Modern Greek Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Vienna

Posted in Public TV on 08.14.2017