“Maybe that’s what marriage was. At its core it was negotiation, it was surrender.” – Narrator
Once upon a time there was a slap… this could easily be the beginning of the homonymous The Slap, a little unknown gem that didn’t get enough attention probably due to its uncommon, televisionwise, origin, Australia. In this miniseries composed of only 8 episodes we are told, in a tale-like fashion, the story of 8 different characters all of them present at a barbecue party where Harry (Alex Dimitriades) slaps Rosie’s (Melissa George, In Treatment) son for misbehaving. This McGuffin, this linking thread that unifies all the stories, allows the show to compose an ecosystem of human connections with a special focus on parent-child relationships.
Each episode revolves around the life of one single character and their psyche through the use of a voice-over, a deep, low, ancient voice. This mechanism gives the series a very characteristic oral-tale style. This is the tale of the common life of the common people, a story as old as humanity and passed down from generation to generation. It’s not coincidence that many members of the family are actually Greek, cradle of civilization and founders of many myths.
As the dish that falls down in the opening sequence, The Slap, through its postmodernist kaleidoscopic structure, tries to portrait nowadays fragmented individualism, a clash of point of views, and also of ambitions, that unveils the impossibility of stable relations beyond the superficial illusion of the routine. Once a strange element is introduced in their lives, it all falls apart. It’s in this tragic revelation that the narrator, the story-teller, takes control and guides the audience with his voice to a safe place, a land of heroes and myths where the middle-class reality has no room.
Unfortunately not all instances work, not all characters can be Greek heroes, being the most painful evidence its final episode, a teen gay coming-of-age story overburdened by cliches. On the bright side, some of the most stereotyped characters at first sight turn out to be the most appealing ones: Harry, the sexist alpha male, Manolis, patriarch of the family, and Aisha, hostess of the barbecue. Three characters apparently lost in their routines by episode 1, but just with a single slap the glasshouse breaks, and we get to see what’s inside, the secret perverted desires of the middle-class.