If you’re into films that wallow in reality rather than provide escape, Scopophilia is the perfect feature for these dark times of social distancing and quarantine. While this Greek suspense film came out in 2018, it couldn’t possibly be timelier.
Scopophilia (which means something like “the love of looking”) tells its story almost entirely through the computer screen of Alexis, a graduate student who is homebound due to an unnamed respiratory illness.
Left alone in an empty flat, sucking on an oxygen mask, Alexis spends his days procrastinating to avoid writing his thesis. Instead of working, he mindlessly scrolls through an Instagram clone, and talks to his friends on Facetime. But mostly, Alexis secretly spies on other people in his neighborhood through their hacked webcams. He takes endless pleasure in peering through little windows into strangers’ private lives.
Some of what he sees is mundane, some of it silly, and some of it sexy… but the voyeurism turns serious when Alexis witnesses a violent attack and possibly a murder. With the victim’s IP address as his only clue, Alexis sets out to catch the killer — even though he can’t leave his house.
If this all sounds like Rear Window with computers, it’s intentional. Directors Electra Angeletopoulou & Natalia Lampropoulou have clearly studied Alfred Hitchcock’s technique for this homage to the master. They ratchet up cinematic tension with little more than a bare-bones story, stationary shots, and editing prowess, turning a set of cinematic limitations into advantages.
In the mode of single-monitor-based horror tales like Unfriended or The Den, Scopophilia uses the familiar quirks of our technology to add realism and suspense — the flat, (intentionally) badly-lit webcam video of Alexis’s friends makes them seem like real people — but when the video feed stutters and buffers at key moments, you can almost feel Hitchcock smiling down from movie-heaven at his children.
At its best, Scopophilia captures the disassociation and depersonalization of modern technology, and comments on the contradictions of our times: How the ability to connect with millions of strangers from anywhere on earth can feel like the loneliest experience you’ve ever had.
You can watch Scopophilia right now for free on YouTube.