“Digger,” the debut feature by the Greek writer and director Georgis Grigorakis, is the familiar story of a local eccentric facing off against mercenary industrialists desperate to acquire and tear down his property.
Nikitas (Vangelis Mourikis) is an aging farmer living alone in a mountain cabin in northern Greece, where the trees block out the sunlight and the air drips with moisture. Along with his drinking buddy neighbors, he resists the encroaching mining company, but his struggle is disrupted when his estranged adult son, Johnny (Argyris Panadazaras), appears, demanding compensation for his share of the land.
This standard setup, in which an individual contends with the forces of modernization that wreak havoc on the environment and phase out traditional ways of life, also plays out in films like “Aquarius” (2016) and “Dead Pigs” (2018). Against those inventive and formidable dramas, “Digger” doesn’t exactly stand out — perhaps because its terse David and Goliath conflict doesn’t yield satisfyingly punchy results.
Grigorakis describes the film as a “western,” with motorbikes replacing horses and muddy forestlands instead of empty plains. The brooding masculine showdown between father and son, however, is its greatest claim to that label, with the intergenerational rift also complicating the film’s anticapitalist stance.
Years ago, Johnny’s mother left Nikitas, their rural abode and their unconventional lifestyle to raise Johnny in what she considered a normal environment. Abandoned, Nikitas dedicates himself entirely to preserving the land. When Johnny returns penniless decades later, after his mother’s death, he considers such devotion a testament to the ignorance and callousness of a crazy old man.
These views are upended over the course of the film, which sees the two men laboring side by side, gradually revealing their unique skills and dilemmas. This makes for a predictably redemptive outcome, yes, but it also goes to show that choosing the right course of resistance — like escaping a pool of quicksand — might be counterintuitive.
Not rated. In Greek, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. In theaters.