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Interview with Babis Makridis

30 Prosinec 2012 Komentáře: 4

So, how it is with the film movement within Greek borders? The journalist refer to it, filmmakers denounce it… is there or isn´t some movement, cult, religion or whatever with slightly weird Greek films? Are you part of it?

In Greece, nobody knows about this “famous movement” apart the small society of filmmakers. It is simply an invention of foreign journalists. There is no weird movement. The only think that happens is that some filmmakers share the same partners and the journalists found some connection to that, which is normal. There is not a manifest that we or I follow. They try to categorize some of us and put as in the same basket. There is no revolution in Greek cinema. There are some guys who are friends and partners many years and suddenly they all decided to make films. Νo one knows if this will continue. No one knows if the new stories are gonna be “weird”. In the other hand there are not only “weird” movies in Greece. Beautiful movies are made in a more naturalistic way.

Greek films are making the history, at least one chapter in the history of cinema. Why now? What is different nowadays compared to 80s, 90s? Is it really linked to political/economical situation or is it just a strange coincidence?

When a new generation appears in every art form it is almost sure that some things are going to change. Sometimes in a bad way but sometimes in a good way. With us happened the second. There is a new generation of Creek filmmakers at this time. Directors who want to tell stories for everyone. Stories that are interesting globally. I think this is the main reason. The stories we tell now are stories who can get out of our borders. But yes its true in some “weird” way that the bad political and economical situation helps us. Maybe the low budget and the smalls crews give us more freedom and more control of our material. If you have not a lot of money you thinκ harder and harder on your stories. Before you shoot you must be absolutely sure of what you want. You don’t have money to spent on extra shots, or time and film for lots of takes. So without the big budget maybe you manage to get the truth emotion that you want from your movie. You concentrate to the most important.

Did state cover some of the production expenses? Or you have to cover production from private funds? Roy Andersson and Shunichiro Miki had to do a lot of commercials in order to be able to pay for their film. Is this also your case?

The Greek film center helps us after we finish our movie. We start from private founding and with some of my personal money. I put the hand in my pocket because I felt that I must tell that story now. I did not have the patience to wait. I am 42 years old and I was already late. Roy Andersson is one of the greatest man in the world.

You have said that you have been influenced by Samuel Beckett (much like Athina Rachel Tsangari who makes clear references to this writer). What about another influence? Is it there any another author, filmmaker, literary or philosophic movement behind your works? Thanks to kind of weird elements in recent Greek films, several journalists dubbed it New Weird Wave, which is ridiculous name. Needless to say, there are several parallels with the Theatre of Absurd (Ionesco, Genet, Beckett etc.). Do you consider this theatrical movement to be one of the major influences? Particularly L resembles a lot Beckett´s oeuvre in its minimalism (which is underlined also by your minimalistic approach to steady fixed shots).

Samuel Beckett is my favorite author. I love the simplicity of his writing. He does not use literary tricks. His language is simple, minimalistic but effective. With this simplicity he manages to reach deep into the human soul and human despair. This is the cinema that I like. The cinema that does not use cinematic gimmicks. Only with the simplicity, cinema can become a powerful narrative tool .The camera must be discreet and modest. Only then is tender to the characters and the story. I like Dostoyevsky for the power of his characters and James Joyce for his writing rhythm. Sometimes I don’t understand what he says, but i keep reading because I love his rhythm. But there is music too. Sonic Youth smash my brain. Swans are still damaging my head. I am still dancing with Joy Division. The Residents are the Samuel Beckett of music. Εspecially the first album of them. Throbbing Gristle and other experimental music is inside my film. Experimental music in a way brinks order to chaos. At he second part of L the action became more abstract but you can still “hear” the beginning of the story. The audience I think and and I hope are still in the story. Like minimal music when you are at 35 minutes of a song and the music is completed different from the beginning but we still have echos of the 10 first minutes because the loops are deep in your ears.

There is only one wave in Greece. The wave who can takes out at the shore where we can lay on the beach and eat a watermelon. I would like to think that my movie is more poetic than “weird”.

Some aspects (maybe latent) of L remind me of philosophic concepts developed by Jean Baudrillard, Arthur Schopenhauer or Albert Camus. Well, in general, L is very rich with philosophy, a wide range of various theories combined altogether. Are you kind of a philosophic guy?

I don’t read philosophy. I don’t believe in theories that given by others. Philosophy is like religion. They are both ready and fixed from others just for the minds who are bored to search for answers. You must explore life by yourself in the way you can and you like. I am a person who actually doesn’t live life. Life is boring and sad. Maybe that is the main reason for my thoughts about filmmaking. That’s why I don’t like realism. I think you can explore life only if you see it with a abnormal lens. When you present life as it is, you see only a reflection and not the truth. It’s like a mirror, and I think that the mirror always lie and never says the truth. When I was a young boy Albert Camus was my favorite author. I was at the age of 16-17. I always gave his books as a gift to all my teenager friends. Maybe there is still something from him inside me. Childhood follow us in all our life.

But I will not say no to a philosophic symposium for L. I think we gonna have a great time and with some wine we can talk for hours. In ancient Greece there were some guys called Dipnosofistes (dinner philosophers). They were drinking wine and talk about life. It was a nice concept.

You feature debut L earned raving reviews. What is the origin of the idea/the main concept for the story? We already know that the originator of Yorgos Giokas. How did you find out about it? Where there other alternatives the storyline could develop into?

The story of this scenario is very old. Many years ago my good friend Yorgos Giοkas sent me some writings in the form of the novel. It was the story of a man who lives in his car and never leaves it. The hero was traveling without reason or purpose on highways. I love the concept and we start writing the screenplay together. After some years we had a final story but something bothering us. I gave the screenplay to Efthymis Filippou to read it and tell me his opinion. After some days Efthymis sent me a summary of a story that held the central character but adding new elements. The family, the motorbikes, the ship, his style of writing and many more. His ideas were very interesting and so we started writing the screenplay again. The story changed but still there are many elements from the previous scenario. Not only the character. The spirit of George is still in the story. I think the main character is very much like my good friend. Many things also changed during filming. Efthymis was always at the shooting and improvisation became the dominant form. Improvisation gave us freedom. L was a work in progress until the final print. I remember that we put the black frames before the dream sequence after we cut the negative. We recut again. It was very dangerous.

L is also hypnotizing not only with content (philosophical) but also by its form. There is strange rhythm in shot/sequence composition. Could provide a little insight into your work with camera?

Υannis Chalkiadakis is my editor for 15 year. We discuss a lot before and after the shooting of L about the storyline and the rhythm. We decide together about that. When we finish the first cut we are sure about the hypnotizing style of L.

L is trying to hypnotize the audience. It tries to get audience out of space and time. It tries to get you in it’s “other“ world using simplicity, minimalism, and loops of action of everyday life. All the characters are looking straight to the lens so the viewer fell like they are feel. L wants to make the audience feel uncomfortable. L is a circle like the circular drives of the hero. There is no life out of the frame. The landscapes are empty and without life. L has its own geography. It creates a new land from the real landscapes.

L is a quite formalistic film. The steady camera and the geometrical frames it was from the beginning in my mind. It’s the way I work for years now, even in advertising. I do not think the camera needs to move. The camera should observe and not participate. L was a story that I can implement that though. I wanted to make a steady road movie. L is about a character who thinks he can move and go on in life but actually never moves. The camera treatment gives the true meaning of the story.

There have been several similarities drawn between you and Yorgos Lanthimos. Do you think it is also because of Efthimis Filippou who was participating on the screenplay (also Aris Servetalis is your lead known from Alps)? What was the collaboration with him like? You have mentioned his eccentric humor. Is it your cup of coffee?

When you share the same partners with other colleagues you can not avoid similarities. You choose your partners for the way they are thinking. If you try to change it, you may lose their qualities. We are all friends for years. But we are also so different. Greece is a small country. The people you can work with are few mostly the people who can follow your thoughts and your vision. Aris Servetalis I think is one of the best actors of his generation in Greece. He is so focused on what he is doing in the scene but at the same time you are feeling he is maybe located somewhere else. That’s what I like in Aris. He is a poetic personality and very funny. He could be on of Beckett’s characters. He loves him too. I never had problems with Aris. Our work together was like a dream. We discuss as we are drinking some coffees. We never talk a lot about the character. We discuss only the motive of the hero. This is the power that pushes him to act this way. The only think I told Aris was that this hero is naïve. I remember giving him some silly Greek music with childish lyrics to feel the naivete that I want.

The film was shot on 35mm (Arriflex BL). There is a really interesting quality of the image, is this the reason why you chose 35mm or is there another one?

I will try to shoot in 35mm until the stocks run out. I learned shooting with 35mm camera. It is very difficult for me to change that. Cinema is a hard and difficult process. The digital revolution makes it easier. That is not proper. I will try to shoot my next movie in film also. The feeling of image on 35mm is different from digital. I think it’s much better. But we must learn the new formats because they are the formats of the future. I fell sad about that but life is changing and you must live it.

Your film L had a rich run on the festival circuit. It will be screened off festivals, probably DVD will come out soon. So, what is next? Are you already contemplating another feature project? Or any project whatsoever?

The festival circuit I think is gonna end at the end of the year. The DVD is ready. Now I am writing something new. I think it’s a good idea. I don’t know yet where it’s gonna get me. I try not to imaging the end. I let the story leads me there.

What have in common Babis Makridis, Leos Carax (writer/director of Holy Motors), J. G. Ballard (author of Crash) and Don DeLillo (author of Cosmopolis)?

I already saw Holy Motors twice - in Karlovy Vary and in Mumbai. I notice from the first time that we have almost the same context. A man in a car. Carax hero gets out of his limousine many times to transform to someone else. My hero gets out of his car only once just to try something new. But the think that scared me to death (in a good way) was one of the last line of Carax’s movie when Mr Oscar goes to his apes family and they asked him who he is, he says: “It’s me”, which was the tag line of L and a repeated line of my lead character during the story. I think both films share some same thoughts about identity. I had read all the J. G. Ballard books when I was 23-25 years old. I loved them so much then. When we started with Yorgos Giokas L’s screenplay I took all the books of Ballard near my bed. I tried to read them again but the effect wasn’t the same as it was in the past. I put it away and brought Beckett’s book under my pillow. I have not seen Cosmopolis yet. I am not a huge fan of David Cronenberg´s movies.

Martin Kudláč

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