The Film Pitt

Byron Pitt lives and breathes cinema, displaying a rare and sometimes explosive passion for the silver screen - often with unpredictable results. GeekPlanetOnline is proud to present a movies column from the self-confessed “film drunk”; a man who once yelled at an entire cinema for laughing at Johnny English

“Like an absurd, European A Clockwork Orange, Dogtooth plays out like a mixture of Haneke and Palahniuk. Thing is...the weirder it got the more absorbing the film became. Hilariously deadpan with some provocative imagery, Dogtooth is one of those off the beaten track movies that I urge those who are into the films that are truly nuts should try and watch once.”

My thoughts on Dogtooth in my 2010 end of year round up.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ feature film career started with the mainstream film My Best Friend where he shared directing credits with mentor Lakis Lazopoulos and was followed by the experimental film Kinetta which premièred at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival. His third feature film, Dogtooth, won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards. His fourth feature film Alps (2011) won the Osella Award for Best Screenplay (Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou) at the 68th Venice International Film Festival.

I recently had the chance to speak to Yorgos about Dogtooth and his most recent feature Alps. 

Dogtooth was one of my favourite films for the last couple of years and for all its shocking violence, one of the things I found really interesting was it contained lots of romanticised elements. And all these elements are placed within the stories intentions and relationships would you agree with that?

Yeah. Well I think that there’s this balance that we always trying to achieve and it’s with violence and love, then there’s also humour in it and funny things and the ridiculous situations. So it’s always in our effort to have some kind of balance in all these elements, and achieve this tone. You know it’s not easily explained or easily achieved for that matter.

Would you feel there are similar elements in Alps at all?

Yeah, I think so because, you know it’s the same people who wrote the script and we have a certain way of seeing things, factoring things and coming up with things. So yeah although, you know we do try to make some things different in many ways. All those things that are familiar to us and worn by us know, creeping in there all the time, and I guess it’s something that we also enjoy. You know, finding whatever that is ridiculous or funny or extremely violent or sad or depressing in all those situations that we want to explore. So I guess while we’re all trying to deal with different things and tell a different story, the tone is definitely similar.

Can you explain a little about Alps at all, just go a bit more in depth with the story?

Well what can I say? Alps is this group of people that decided that they are going to be offering this service to people who have lost someone, one of their family members or lovers who’s just died. So they are offering to stand in for these decreased people and take their roles in their everyday lives, for a small fee of course!

How did this story come about?

It started by discussion with (Efthimis), my co-writer, about death and how people cope with it or when you die do people really remember you and how that manifests itself and what do they do in their everyday lives after you gone and all of these kinds of things. By structuring the story and discovering the characters, who the characters might be and who would serve this kind of theme.

I’m going to briefly mention Hollywood and how it’s getting quite stagnant and lacking adventure, then we’ve got films like Dogtooth, coming from yourself, and films coming from Europe who are well known for their freshness and originality, and yet Dogtooth makes lots of references to well-loved Hollywood films and you also got nominated for an Oscar. So I was wondering if you had been influenced by Hollywood in any other way?

Well I guess it’s inevitable basically, because I did grow up with these kinds of films, so in some completely instinctive level. You know there’s all these things and it’s not just Hollywood films, it’s spaghetti westerns and Bruce Lee films and all these kinds of films that I grew up with. There might not be a direct connection but there’s definitely something that I can’t pinpoint. It’s both with love and affection that I reference these films and with a tendency of juxtaposing them to what we do at the same time, so it’s a complex relationship basically.

The next question is a little bit out there, I was just wondering, as someone who worked on previous Olympic Games, what did you think of the opening Ceremony by Danny Boyle?

Ah, I actually didn’t watch them and I deliberately fled the country when the Olympics were taking place. Like many people that I discovered, because they said that London was quite quiet when the Olympics were taking place.

OK, well we’ll skip that then. Considering all the turbulence that’s happening in Greece over the last year, involving the economic crisis, do you think the Greek film industry will struggle against the international scene?

Well it has always been struggling, I mean things have not changed that much. I mean there was always a great difficulty making films in Greece. The structures are not good, there’s not enough finance. A lot of it was corrupted for many years. So it was always a struggle for Greek filmmakers to make films. And it’s the same... possibly a bit more difficult now. But, you know, there was no money before, even less now. But I don’t think it stops filmmakers making films and that’s how we made Alps as well. They just try to find a way. Between friends and other filmmakers and people who want to help out? That’s the only way to make films in Greece at the moment. But it has been for many years for the younger filmmakers. There weren’t many options.

So things will be and they keep making films and I think at this point, though there are a few films being produced in Greece, under starched conditions.

Do you think that they might bring forth a flourish of creativity or do you think that the difficulties are going to be that strong and they’re going to stay on the same track?

You know I have no clue. I think there’s always been elements of good filmmaking and bad filmmaking, and you know, at this moment there’s a certain attention to Greek cinema, so all these elements are going to be more open and more exposed internationally. But it doesn’t change the essence of the creativity. You know there’s always going to be good films and there’s always going to be bad films. I don’t think the difficulties produce greater films necessarily. So you know there’s also the matter of chance, the matter of the moment. There’s so many things that influence the result of a film that you can’t really tell.

I think that’s all my questions, Thank you Yorgos you’ve been wonderful.



Alps will be released in UK cinemas on 9th November 2012. Dogtooth is out now on DVD. Click on the links to view their trailers.