Yorgos Lanthimos • Director
by Domenico La Porta
03/09/2011 - Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos denies belonging to a new movement associated with his crisis-stricken country, but on viewing Alps [trailer], which he presented in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival, it’s first and foremost his extraordinary style which strikes viewers and about which the director talks to the press.
Where did you find such a subject?
YorgosLanthimos: The idea didn’t come from one single place. My co-screenwriter Efthimis Filippou and I were wondering what we were going to do next. We had this idea about a group of people who spend their time playing telephone pranks or sending letters announcing false deaths, perhaps their own. But this idea wasn’t very cinematic, so in developing it, we came up with this group of people who pretend to be other people in order to escape their own life.
Is there a link between Dogtooth [trailer, film focus] and this film? Is it a sort of follow-up?
I suppose we can’t avoid the comparison, but the two films are exact opposites. Dogtooth is the story of a person who tries to escape a fictitious world. Alps is about a person who tries to enter a fabricated world. The only thing the two films have in common is their two screenwriters.
Could we see Alps as a metaphor for the despair of Greek people at the moment?
I don’t think the film has a specific connection with Greece. Yes, money is a problem in the film and the characters try to earn it in various ways, but this is something happening right across the globe. There is no metaphoric intention behind it.
You belong to the New Greek Cinema. What do you feel about this movement?
People are quick to identify new movements and they lump everyone together rather quickly because it’s easier for them that way. If you look at the Greek directors who have been doing well recently, you’ll see that they make films that are very different from one other. They belong to lots of different movements, so I don’t think New Greek Cinema exists as a movement, just directors who are doing their job as well as possible despite the difficult conditions.
Is it easy to separate reality from fiction when you have to show both in a real society, made up of real settings, etc.?
After the film, we discovered that a company in Japan or Korea hires actors to behave like wives in real life. Reality is never far from fiction. It doesn’t matter how offbeat your ideas are, there are always people to do the same thing, or even worse somewhere in the real world. In the film, we try to really separate reality from fiction notably by following the experiences of this nurse who moves from one to the other and is not content to stay in the middle.
Is there a lot of improvisation?
Some scenes on screen are not in the original script because the actors gave us the inspiration for them, the locations, a particular detail in a dialogue. I can’t say that the latter were followed to the letter either. The actors had some leeway. A comic effect is sometimes simply created by the way an actor paraphrases a dialogue in the script, whereas with another the performance will have a completely different effect. There is a continuous process of adaptation during the shoot.
Will you stay in Greece for your next films?
I’ve made three films in Greece in very difficult financial conditions. All this has contributed to my style, but today I have the opportunity to make films elsewhere and it’s a chance I want to grab to see what these places can bring me and how they will influence my stories.