Morning Patrol (Nikos Nikolaidis, 1987)

by Smart

There is something inherently alluring about an abandoned, crumbling city of dystopia. Such places tend to evoke an atmosphere out of simply existing. They are locations which are often so full of dangers and obstacles that even the most modest of journeys can become an almost insurmountable struggle. In Morning Patrol the situation is no different. We follow an unnamed female as she attempts, at first alone and then later with help, to traverse through the ‘forbidden zone’. This premise is nothing special, it is nothing original, and it openly draws upon numerous better known works of Sci-Fi for inspiration. However, director and writer Nikos Nikolaidis adds something special to his tale, a sense of intimacy. The characters are treated with such delicate contemplation by the camera that it becomes almost impossible not to feel connected with them and to share in their experiences. Dialogue is minimal, but increases as the film goes on to offer haunting insight into the decrepit world we are seeing. This is a poetic journey, one that is filled with great beauty hidden beneath the ever-present shadows.

The atmosphere is perfect. It is dreamy, moody, and wistful, all of which is heightened by the wonderful soft score, which speaks invisibly in the background. We become at ease with the loneliness of our protagonist, while never forgetting the danger of the looming morning patrol and its persistent, threatening, electronic voice. There is a palpable juxtaposition between splendour and terror. The cinematography is expressive and unobtrusive. It moves slowly, gracefully, exploring the destroyed city with both stunning wide-shots and elegant, shallow focus close-ups. The locations are so real, so human, it’s unnerving. Nikolaidis’ style is consistent, almost unseen, but so elegiac and honest that it gives the film everything it needs. An apocalyptic future has never looked so simultaneously depressing and dazzling. The way the film melds a collapsed industrial world with lush nature is exquisite. Rain falls inside each empty building that we pass through in our seamless journey as viewers from one lingering, masterfully composed location to the next. The world outside the frame is just as engaging as the one which we can see. Morning Patrol is ultimately touching in its understanding, artistry and exploration of anguish.