An inside look on Medea, 1.2023
A different interview
The methodical dimension of the film “Medea” (2022) easily intensified the desire to seek even more answers for its cinematic expression.
The creator Dimitris Athanitis (writer/director) in an essential, original dialogue, defined even more strongly the aura of his own charming Medea, but more generally of his own Cinema.
With comprehensiveness, clarity, completeness, he expressed an artistic testimony, which is clearly far from ordinary interviews. Real Cinephile Food…
"Medea will turn everything upside down...Her enemies will be seduced, bent and destroyed by her hands, without her having to touch them."
- G.K.: You intensified the pride in the lost Dignity of Medea against the unjust power of Corinth. Medea stands upright & only looks down...When she kneels to Creon, she stands up a little. What structures her salvaged self-esteem? Moral Law (abandoned spouse-parent), her magical powers or perhaps a proto-feminist explosion?
Dimitris Athanitis: Medea is the daughter of a king, she has special powers and a strong personality. But above all, it has a non-negotiable dignity and a corresponding resistance to the arrogance of power.
Creon bows before the humiliated woman, who kneels at his feet, asking for just one day's respite before he goes into exile. And yet by the next morning, Medea will turn everything upside down. Alone, abandoned by everyone, she will rely on her instinct and inner strength. The path she will follow is unknown even to her. He invents him every moment. Her enemies will be seduced, bent and destroyed by her hands without her having to touch them.
But pay attention: this is exactly how Aris, the hero of another film of mine, "Invisible", reacts even though he is a simple worker. Belief in a deeper Morality and sense of Right equips both persons, who at first seem so far from each other.
G.K.: In your film, Medea faces the ghost of Glafki, and then she hears the laughter of her dead sons. Is this sensitive distinction between the priorities of Medea's Erinyes about a female solidarity, because of the gender of the silently obedient daughter of Creon?
DA: As Medea leaves, still holding the knife in her bloodied hands, she begins to stumble like a hypnotized woman, almost unaware of what she has done. It's going down literally and figuratively. The helping hand she would like to find suddenly appears out of nowhere. But it quickly develops into a threat. The ghost of Creon's Daughter appears, to complete the paranoia, fear and guilt that Medea lives with. Her children's laughter is the highlight. But here too, he will manage to recover, overcome fear and move on.
- G.K.: We are talking about your own Medea, but not about the analogous Jason. Opportunist, ignorant, voiceless before Creon. But he carries doses of guilt-remorse towards Medea. Who exactly is this Jason for you? Do we meet him as a timeless, social male persona?
DA: Iason is the typical male opportunist, who aims exclusively at his own survival and above all advancement. Let's not forget, of course, that he is also the son of a king, chasing the power that was taken from him as a child.
- G.K.: Like a living organism, along with the fatal hand, the knife moves progressively in its journey. Analysts consider Medea's choice of weapon as a "masculine" (cold-blooded) killer. Are you, overcoming such entrenched notions, rather considering directing an androgynous, cerebral/cold expression of murderous desperation?
DA: Medea is an archetypal, strong woman. As such, male interpretations try to slander her, to degrade her. It is typical that she has a reputation only for killing children and not at all for standing up to (male) authority.
In my films I focus on strong women. Women who want to define their own lives. Eurydice in "No Sympathy For The Devil" is a counterpart of the same, uncompromisingly self-possessed. As well as the heroines in "Three Days of Happiness".
- G.K.: In your version, the only Corinthian man who treated Medea well was the Messenger. Although he knows that she killed Glauki. Why did you choose to give him a form of understanding towards Medea, despite the poisoning of the Corinthian princess? Is it a class revolution?
DA: Angelos used to live with them, as Doula says. So he is a person with a relationship of intimacy, indefinite love and respect towards Medea. But in fact, Medea's extreme resistance towards Creon can also cause turmoil in people who are taken for granted, submissive, such as Angel. Medea shows them how weak and ultimately vulnerable powerful power can really be.
- G.K.: In the film, the positions of the Maid (Doula) are a courageous defense of Medea. He enters before the Guard, greets the Messenger first, faces Jason's wrath as a shield. But in the peaceful meeting of Jason & Medea the Maid stands schematically away from Medea's side, behind Jason. Why;
D.A.: The Maid cannot interfere between the couple. Nor does she need to defend Medea against some plot. And of course, she doesn't know for what deeper reason, her lady has caused this meeting.
No person in the film knows what will happen next, or even what exactly is happening, in each moment they are present and living it. Because there is always a second level of action, which will be revealed later. It is yet another great innovation and difference of my own Medea from that of Euripides.
- G.K.: At the time of exile, Medea & Maid ascend to the mock mountain castle. The music suddenly changes to a more melodic & upbeat one. Is the temporary change of music a momentary, fleeting hope of a bloodless flight of Medea from Corinth? Then you show her Pure. Do these have anything to do with her repressed peaceful side?
DA: As I said, no person knows what will happen next or even what exactly is happening at any given moment. Even Medea herself follows the juncture, while at the same time trying to capitalize on it and subvert it. When he leaves with Doula for the mountain, it is as if he is preparing the "journey somewhere far, somewhere beautiful." Exactly as he told her just before, to give courage to the other woman, but also to herself.
At the same time, alone on top of the mountain, she lights a fire and tries to gather her special powers, as she comes into contact with nature. As an archetypal figure, Medea is in essential communication with the archetypal forces of nature. From there it comes, there it treads, there it regenerates.
That’s why the natural landscape, it is the site of the drama in the film. And here, there is another great, essential, profound differentiation and innovation from the ancient Tragedy.
G.K.: Would you accept that as a necessary mix of Aegeus & Favor Helios, who gave more impetus to the already strong Medea, you similarly transformed & traveled the Talented Alexandra Kazazou? How was the organizational process of introducing your protagonist?
D.A.: The analogy is accurate. What I first saw, in the almost unknown Kazazu to me, was a strong, almost naive presence. I then discovered that she has strong technique and talent. Together we built the role of Medea step by step.
We worked alone at first and then I put her in front of the other characters. I am completely satisfied with what we have built and I can say without hesitation that it is among the two or three strongest female performances in the history of Cinema. I am referring to films, where not only a woman is the protagonist, but in which the entire film is built on a female character. I can only compare her with Isabelle Adjani from Andrei Zulavsky's “Possession” and Renee Jean Falconetti from Carl Theodor Dreyer's “The Passion of Joan of Arc”.
But again I will refer to "No Sympathy for the Devil" with the same push/transformation at the time of Lena Kitsopoulou, in a unique Eurydice, which, not by chance, won the Interpretation Award in the International Section of the Thessaloniki Festival. While Alexandra Kazazou already has 4 awards for the role of Medea.
However, I must say, that a film is not simply the sum of individual elements (direction, acting, photography, etc.). A film, which is about real Cinema, is something much more. Its value and charm lie precisely in the indefinably magical mix of all these and many other elements, which are difficult to describe and even more difficult to analyze.
- G.K.: The non-negotiable Purification. How did you choose this essential, apocalyptic swing of Medea at the end, which tragically frees the core of the concept "From a Machine God," but also the beating heart of in Cinema?
DA: I wasn't thinking about Euripides at all when I was shooting the film. While I was almost completely oblivious to him, when "Medea" like an almost complete project, came alone to find me twenty years ago. Indeed, you describe the combination very aptly.
But a careful look at my films will show that my heroes turn to the sky, almost always at the end. From 'Goodbye Berlin', 'Vox' and '2000+1 Shots' to 'Invisible', my heroes invoke this potentially 'floating into infinity.' And they offer us through their gaze, even as dead, what only an authentic work of art can give. Ascension!
- G.K.: Is there an invisible third actor-Choros in the film? Possibly from the humble observer Paramana, from the women who surround the child-killer Medea or more generally even from us the viewers?
DA: Interesting observation, although from the initial conception of the film, (which as I said, came to find me on its own), there was never a Choros in the classical sense. The multiple interpretations for each individual element are indicative of the great density the film has as a whole. But also in every scene, even in every image.
That's exactly why no one knows what will happen. It is the ambiguity of some words, it is the hidden thoughts, it is the symbolism of places, images and much more. Thus, the film builds its own, unexpected world every moment.
In "The Seventh Continent / 60 Films Forever," my book that has just been publishsed, I write in the introduction: "Thousands of movies have been made. But there are few of them, which go beyond the simple storytelling. There are few of them, which have a special point of view, a personal look. These that create a new world. These, which are real Cinema." "Medea" is real Cinema.
- G.K.: The element of Supplication to kings & kneeling in general are presented with emphasis in the film. From Medea and other characters. It is not only about power relations, it also has a human dimension. Do you think there is a socio-political correlation of kneeling with Modern Man and if so, how has he managed to superimpose it on today?
D.A.: I am very afraid that kneeling has been lost. It is lost like an act of supplication, but also as one that carries deep dignity and self-awareness, while its theatricality is completely functional. Today, it has been replaced by bowing to the mute, by an unconditional submission steeped in cowardice and fear.
- G.K.: Who is this unique woman, who extends a helping hand to Medea's nightmarish vision? Could it be Hecate?
DA: Essentially, it is the very need of the hypnotized Medea to find a helping hand. It is her own need, at the moment of her collapse, to create this face in her mind. She will immediately find that this hand is accompanied by women who come to devour her. And it is at that moment, in which Medea the knife (which until then seemed stuck to her hand), will let it fall. Like a confession, but also like a plea for grace.
- G.K.: What is the reason why you chose that Medea does not to take the dead bodies of the children with her?
DA: As I said, I literally "saw" the film, two decades ago, without having even read The Tragedy or seen it in the Theater. Medea separates, with the murder, a part of herself. Her children. And she does it to the end. At the same time, she has declared that she will leave alone. In the film there is an incredible sub-economy, often underground. Everything is still being prepared, declared, foretold, long before it happens.
But in a way that not only does not betrays anything, but remaining completely unexpected. It is another one of the reasons that make me talk about reinventing the ancient Tragedy and finally about a completely original work.
And of course, this pre-economy is another element of the film's density, which moves a series of layers of meanings, sensations, feelings, making them constantly intertwine.
- G.K.: In closing, I would like to ask you something that contains information about the continuation of your filmography, but at the same time is far from clichés. Do you think that in the next creative stages you could make a film about Euripides himself?
D.A.: I confess not. And it hasn't crossed my mind, not even as an idea. However, I must say, that Euripides had disproportionately little acceptance in relation to the weight and innovations of his work.
It takes a lot of courage to write such a work, which does justice to the heroine. But what a mature audience this was, which in the daylight, under the sun, could watch and appreciate such a cruel masterpiece in huge theaters.