Athens
19
12
2023
CULTURAL EVENT

Director Yorgos Lanthimos at press conference in Athens: "I try to make films open to interpretation"

"I think the purpose we make films is to make people own. And I, for one, try to make them as open as possible so that different people who come from different social and personal experiences can have their own personal experience of what they see.
"I think the purpose we make films is to make people own. And I, for one, try to make them as open as possible so that different people who come from different social and personal experiences can have their own personal experience of what they see.

In other words, the film should not be one-dimensional for everyone, but should have different interpretations and feel for each person who sees it", said Yorgos Lanthimos at the press conference held at the Hotel Grande Bretagne on the occasion of the Greek premiere of his new film, "Poor things", which took place on Sunday at the Onassis Stegi in the presence of the director.  At the same time as Athens, it will premiere in Thessaloniki, at Olympion in collaboration with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

"Poor things", an anthem to women's empowerment, starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo, will be released in Greek theaters on January 1, 2024 by Feelgood Entertainment. However, on December 26 and 27 there will be some special screenings with tickets in several cinemas.

Based on the book of the same title by Alisder Gray and a screenplay by Tony McNamara, the Greek director reverses the myth of Frankenstein and presents a poignant essay on the freedom and joy of sex, class inequalities, individual and social self-determination, desire and love.

Without Emma Stone by his side, after the American actress did not manage to come to Athens as planned for health reasons, Yorgos Lanthimos spoke to Greek journalists this morning about his new film and the importance of creative freedom, which is the "key" to everything he does.

"I don't often go into the process of trying to analyze what the film says or what I'm interested in saying through it. I try - and this is often misunderstood - not to share these thoughts and not to give interpretations, because I feel that I limit the way someone else can see the film. My own thought is only one aspect of this, others may see much more and that's what's interesting. There are issues that are more obvious, others for fewer people to understand or project. There have also been cases where I have felt that it is very unlikely that what someone thinks is in the film, but this is their own projection and it says more about the person than about the film," the Greek director said about whether it makes him nervous about how his film will be "read" by the audience.

"Poor things" is already included in all the lists of major film magazines and international film critics for the best films of the year. The film had its world premiere last September at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, has already received seven nominations at the Golden Globes and thirteen at the Critics Choice Awards, and is one of the undisputed favorites for the next Oscars, in almost all categories.

Referring to his collaboration with the actors during the preparation of the film, he stated that the way they work He is very practical and physical. "It will sound strange but I don't tell them anything. We do not analyze characters and the type of interpretations. First of all, there is a scenario which, as I understand it, has a strong character and a specific direction. Then we enter a process of working physically and instinctively, during which we do various exercises, theatrical, physical, where if the actors do not already know each other, they come close and feel comfortable with each other and we rehearse without trying to specify what their performance will be like when we film. During games, the scenario becomes second nature, but not in a rational way. There is a memory created in relation to the text and their bodies. Also, the whole process has to do with the actors, who are excellent and understand the different textures that each scene has and the evolution of their character. I try not to talk too much because by not knowing exactly what they think, I manage to gain a distance from what I see and judge better whether it works or not. If we had agreed some things beforehand, it would have been more difficult for me."

The film, set in the Victorian era, replaces the monster with Bella, a beautiful young nymphomaniac who commits suicide to escape her violent husband. Bella is brought back to life by an eccentric scientist, Godwin Baxter, but gives her the mind of a baby. Hungry to discover real life, she runs away with Duncan, a competent and blunted moral lawyer, on a wandering around the world. Freed from the prejudices and silos of her time, Bella seeks to fight for equality and freedom.

"In Alisder Gray's book, Bella Baxter's story is not told in her own words but through the perspective of various other characters. From the first moment I thought of making it into a movie, I wanted to put Bella at the center and create a film about her own story. While the book is a realistic depiction of the Victorian era, it made me think that it would be more interesting to make a world that supports this choice and reflects how Bella comes into contact with all this new world she travels through. And it was particularly interesting to build the cities, her house, the ship where she travels, in the studio, with traditional cinematic techniques, to build the sets and not to render them digitally. We used physical and effects to complement what we had made, but nothing has been made from scratch as a digital effect," Lanthimos explained.

Speaking about Holly Waddington's costume design, she said how much it enhanced the film's dramaturgy: "She was extremely creative and gave the costumes meaningful relevance to the story of the film. For example, when Bella starts working at the brothel in Paris, she wears a latex raincoat, which is very nice and does look like a condom. Also, another important part was how the costume elements – and Emma played a big part in this – combined with the development of Bella's character."

In the book, Athens is mentioned in Bella's journey, but it is not present in the film. "Athens does not it was never a big piece, there was a moment on a card Bella sent to Godwin and Max, saying "God, the Parthenon is still broken". It was a small piece that was cut in the editing," he noted.

Asked if "Poor Things" could have been filmed in Greece and if he made the right decision a decade ago to leave the country, Yorgos said: "They are two different pieces, one is the funding, the other is where it would be filmed. When we were looking for a place and ended up in Budapest, all options were open, even Greece, but it was excluded because there are no studios here. Neither does the technical knowledge and experience of constructing such a level of sets. Hungary has the largest studios in Europe and a tradition of set construction. The reason why the film was difficult to make in the past is that ten years ago such a story was not so interesting for the world of cinema or in general, we will never know. I think times changed and we slowly managed to make it since I also made some bigger films in English. The fact that I left Greece was very important because the first steps were taken to make these films. At the time I was told, "Amazing Canine" but what they were asking for was "something more mainstream that because you are European will be a little more interesting". It was difficult but we managed it in a way. And once this journey began, it doesn't really matter where you are. In the beginning it was important, at the moment I think it doesn't really matter where I am."

As for whether it creates extra stress or more freedom for him to be able to make the films he wants and in the way he wants, the Greek director stressed that he always made the films he wanted, but in the beginning he did not have financial support. "The anxiety is always there, I think in the beginning there was more naivety. The strange thing is that even though the budgets are growing, you always design the film in one way, there is a costing and when you get to shoot it it's never enough money and there is a struggle to make it. The final cut and creative freedom for me are necessarily key to all this. I mean, I don't think I'd make movies if somebody said to me, "yes, you can do it, but you can't have the final cut, we'll talk about it later." I have refused many times to make films with funding that does not guarantee me the final cut. I prefer to wait and do something else or some other profession."