Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, probably one of the most distinctive voices in that already distinctive cinema scene that Greece has produced in recent years, did something special to preserve his idiosyncratic voice when he switched to making films in English. He moved to England. Often, you hear about foreign filmmakers, especially Oscar-nominated ones, like Lanthimos, wooed by Hollywood to make their English language debut. But, when we spoke, he made it clear that’s not what he wanted to do with his career. We spoke while he was in Los Angeles … for a brief press tour.
Speaking from the offices of film distributor A24, which is handling the U.S. distribution of his first English language film, The Lobster (we reviewed it yesterday: The Lobster offers brilliant satire of the corrupted expectations of human coupling — a film review), Lanthimos explained his decision. “I purposely moved to England in order to be as free as I was, but try to make films with a few more means because the way we made films in Greece was very free, but at the same time the films were done with extreme low budgets, and it was mainly because of friends offering their services and their passion.”
He says he moved to England five years ago. It was while he was there that he conceived the film about a world where people who can’t find a mate are turned into animals of their choosing. “It was always going to be an English language film,” he said of The Lobster.
Moving to England, he says, felt like a logical step in his film career, after shooting four feature-length films in Greece. He says, although he was making movies with like-minded collaborators, he was feeling constrained. “You couldn’t have a choice for many things, and I hoped after making three films in Greece, the way we made them, in order to evolve and progress, I had to start making English language films but keep them at a level where we still have creative freedom, but just make them in a more decent way.”
Freedom for Lanthimos benefits the adventurous cinephile, as well. He likes leaving his films open to interpretation, something he seems to have been fine-tuning throughout his career. Though there may seem to be a message in his latest movie, he reveals a clear message is never his intention. “It’s more about asking questions and exposing situations that we observe around us and putting them together, showing the conflicts within society, characters, so it’s more about stimulating questions about human behavior, the way we construct our society. It’s about stimulating people to thinking about things instead of saying something specific about one thing.”
Lanthimos spoke more about this in an interview I wrote for the Miami New Times’ Art and Culture blog. You can read that by jumping through the section’s logo below:
We also got some confirmation on some projects he has in the works. “I have written another screenplay with my co-writer Efthymis Filippou, with whom I wrote my last three films together,” Lanthimos offered. “I have also developed over a few years a very different kind of movie, which is a period film in England, during Queen Anne’s reign, so I’m working on those two at the moment, and we’re gonna see what happens next.”
Poked for some details, he offered the titles of the films and what his non-period film is about. “It’s very early on still,” he admitted. “It’s more of a psychological thriller with supernatural elements. It’s called The Killing of a Scared Deer, and then the Queen Anne film is called The Favourite. Both English.”
The Lobster runs 119 minutes and is rated R (trigger warnings: human eye violence, animals in peril, including gory death). It opens in our South Florida area at several local theaters on Friday, June 3. It will make its way to the Miami Beach Cinematheque, June 11. For theaters in other parts of the U.S., visit this link. All images in this post are courtesy of the film’s IMDB page.