Reviews Short Narrative

12,800 (2020) – 2.5 stars

Director: Andreas Papakyriakou

Writer: Andreas Papakyriakou

Cast: Stelios Andronikou, Andreas Papamichalopoullos, Constantinos Alkiviadis, Andreas Makris

Running time: 7mins

With a global plague still ravaging the world’s human population, while an environmental crisis seems to be edging all the earth’s species toward an ecological Armageddon, ‘apocalypse talk’ is finally going mainstream – after all, it certainly spices up the stale banter relating to health or the weather people have been indulging in for generations. As a result of this sea-change in idle tattle, script-writers have inevitably had to adapt their own routines regarding their depiction of meandering banter. Andreas Papakyriakou’s 12,800 is an example of this on-going process.

At the heart of the film, two Cypriot mobsters sit in a bar, following a ‘cleaning’ job for a contact of theirs who just murdered someone. They participate in a meandering examination of senseless violence, human culture, and natural disasters – and it is clear that Papakyriakou has clearly taken more than a little inspiration from the work of Quentin Tarantino for his idiosyncratic script.

As we have seen on Indy Film Library before, that is a deceptively hard thing to pull off, and to a certain extent, he has done so. To his credit – not to mention Stelios Andronikou and Andreas Papamichalopoullos who had the hard job of selling the dialogue – his characters deliver reams of speech containing an intricate web of cultural, political and historical references without actually saying anything. Despite this, they manage to keep you hanging on just about every word, wondering exactly where this is all going.

Having zipped through talking points including actor-turned-politician Melina Mercouri’s attempts to have the Parthenon Marbles returned to Athens from London, musician Haris Alexiou – who notably performed several times in front of the Acropolis – and an unspecified war taking place “80 kilometres away” (though Syria is 455 kilometres away from Cyprus, so it can’t be that), we settle on the theme of ‘cataclysms’ for the film’s final third. Specifically, we hear ‘12,800’ bandied about – with Andronikou’s character mentioning that most religions have some kind of scripture relating to a great catastrophe from 12,800 years ago, before muttering that “the comets are falling.”

According to the Clovis comet hypothesis, 12,800 years ago, fragments of a disintegrating asteroid struck North America, South America, Europe, and Western Asia. It is thought by some scientists that this impact event brought about the extinction of many species of North American Pleistocene mega-fauna. With the planet apparently undergoing a sixth mass extinction, the chaos and destruction which this sudden change wrought on the world of our ancient ancestors seems extremely pertinent. What lets the film down, however, is that we don’t get any form of narrative cataclysm to punctuate this story.

For all the talk of impending disasters, references to lost cultures and ruminations on the continuing violence many people face across the planet, there is no effort in Papakyriakou’s script to build the conversation to a crescendo. If you are going to commit to slow-burning dialogue-driven scenes, you need to take it somewhere. Largely, what marks Tarantino out as a filmmaker is his understanding of this balance – not rushing dialogue to get to the next action scene, but not overstaying his welcome either. Above all, this means appreciating that without that punchline, that element of payoff at the end of the scene, all the charming nothing-conversations in the world will not keep the audience from feeling strung-along.

Frustratingly, there are elements present in this film which could have provided this much-needed explosion. Constantinos Alkiviadis, who never appears on-screen with the ‘cleaners’, has all the bubbling inner-rage of Robert Carlyle’s Begbie in Trainspotting. There is a twitching irritability and terrifying irrationality to the sudden bursts of violence his character Sailor is apparently prone to – with a flashback showing him gunning down a pizza delivery courier for his lack of respect for Elvis Presley.

Seeing what could have been a tense and provocative scene, complete with its underused character, mishandled in this way is a crying shame. By shifting this act of violence to the end of the film – or changing Sailor’s relationship to a more direct one with the ‘cleaners’, gradually rising tension toward a sudden shock of brutality at the movie’s climax – this film could have been ten times more impactful than it is. As it stands, the idle banter surrounding the end of the world seems aimless, and careless, leaving you wondering if there was any point in watching along. More of a damp squib than a cataclysm, then.

There are raw materials on display in 12,800 which bode well for the futures of all those involved in this film. They just need to work on refining that potential into a cohesive story, with the suitable punch to tie it together with.

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