Greek News Agenda interviewed* Dimitris Athanitis in connection to his film “Invisible”, a tough urban western focusing on the unequal battle fought by 35year-old factory worker Aris against injustice after being fired without notice. Shocked and unable to react rationally, Aris decides to take justice into his own hands, when his ex-wife appears unexpectedly leaving their 6 year-old son with him.
Athanitis explains how he has woven a dense narrative on clearly cinematic terms which follows the protagonist’s gradual loss of contact with reality. He underlines that he is interested in exploring his characters’ desires and thoughts, going under the surface, beyond conventional distinctions between “good’ and “bad” and that his films always include social criticism, despite appearances to the contrary.
Asked why he chose Aspropyrgos, an industrial area on the outskirts of Athens, as setting, Athanitis replies that it is an area that fits into the notion of invisibility around which the film revolves, in the sense that it has lost its place in society, as is the case with the central character, as well as his son who is being ignored by both parents. Finally, Athanitis invites the reader to a view of his personal journey in filmmaking through twenty five different encounters, from the 80’s to the present, as laid out in his book “Secret encounters”.
It is accurate that Invisible is innovative in combining elements from different cinematic genres but mainly it is the ending of the film that brings something really new. Ιn this big, almost endless sequence, there are three plot twists which hit the audience in a hard way. The viewer feels lost in the turnovers, he has to think and find his own path, although for me it is clear enough what really happens. But the decisive point behind all these innovative combinations, is that Invisible combines reality with elements of fantasy. The film begins describing the hero’s harsh reality and step by step introduces to the viewer what is happening inside Aris’s mind. This is the key to understand also the ending.
On the other hand it is important to see that under a simple looking surface, narration is very thick, enriched with two and three stories running at the same time. Although we keep always Aris in the cadre we can watch the story of his kid, important and complicated as his. We also watch in an abstract way, with few lines and many times with no lines at all, the complicated existence and relations of the other characters surrounding Aris.
The inability of personal contact to cure the human soul is a recurring issue in your films. Is there any hope for human relationships?
In my films I am interesting to dig under the surface. I want to touch characters under their social face and I want to see what they really want, what they think, far from the fake distinction between “good” and “bad”. Finally my films come to have a strong social comment although they seem to be far from something like this.
In my first short film “Philosophy” shot in 1993 when the war in Sarajevo had just began, the plot is that the war in Balkans expand, Greek economy collapses, the President declares bankrupty. Only remaining free of cost possibility is philosophy. The film gained the Award for Best Fantasy film in Drama Festival. Some years later, film’s plot was just reality.
The city is a protagonist in your films. Why did you choose Aspropyrgos as a background in “Invisible”?
It is true that my six previous films were shot in Athens downtown and they had to do with the city life. But Aspropyrgos is not really far away. It is just the industrial area at the suburbs of the city and I felt that there was the right place for my story. And although this area is so close to the city, it remains invisible for the people, as Aris remains invisible for his entrepreneur and as the kid feels invisible in the adult’s world.
How do film makers deal with the issue of the economic crisis? Are they intimidated by it?
Crisis has proven to be productive in a way. She gave more space for creativity and made clear how urgent is to make films. So, I am optimistic.
Would you like to tell us a few things about your book “Secret encounters”? What do these encounters offer to the reader?
“Secret Encounters” is a book about my meetings with some extraordinary people during my cinematographic trip all these years. There are stars like Ben Gazzara and directors like Chabrol or Kakoyannis, writers, singers, fictional characters, chess players and even some unknown persons. There is a provocative mixture of figures and at the same time my own personal trip in filmmaking through twenty five different meetings, from the 80’s to today.
What are your future plans?
The only I can say is that it shall be a female character in the center of my next film, it shall be in black and white and it shall be shot far from Athens.