‘Hollywood does not interest me’
Says Greek filmmaker, Theo Angelopoulos, who will receive the International Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai Film Festival today. Jayeeta Mazumder tells more.
When did you first get the urge to make films?
I used to write... I’ve been a journalist even at 16. I was passionate about translating into words all things around me. I was watching Michael Curtiz’s Angels With Dirty Faces. There was a scene in which a man was about to die. There was something about it that made me feel as if it was my own life. It was then that I decided to see life through a camera. I often ponder the fact that some day I too might die.
In your films, an emotional journey leads up to a bigger political one — you are bleak and hopeful at the same time. Why?
My films belong to a generation, which believed in the power of change. If you notice carefully, you’ll see that hope exists but it fails to take shape. The hope, at times, is bitter and at other times, it’s a little bit more than that; it edges on frustration. But it does remain an integral part of the narrative. It’s just a reflection of the times.
Do the men, wearing yellow windcheaters, repeatedly appearing in your films, imply hope?
(Smiles) Well, the three men in Eternity And a Day are a little more like angels who just pass by. While in The Suspended Step Of The Stork, at the end of the film there’s a scene where the technicians on poles look like suspended birds. The film begins there. They could have removed their yellow jackets but I didn’t let them because it adds to the visual appeal of the film. One has to open enough to these scenes, because these scenes follow love.
You have an obsession for broken statues too.
(Laughs) Greece is a country, which is filled with broken statues. I just took the concept and put it in my film. Even the museum of Acropolis has only broken statues!
What are the responsibilities while making a political film?
When I made my first political film, it was the time of dictatorship. So, yes, it was extremely dangerous. That’s why, no one — the crew, the actors or even the producer knew the script. The producer would only come to the sets with a briefcase full of money. But he had no idea what the film was about. So the entire responsibility was on me. If something went wrong, I’d be the one to be blamed (smiles).
Have you ever run into trouble?
Well, when I was making The Suspended Step Of the Stork, I had trouble with the church. They created problems for us and wouldn’t let us shoot. Some of the fanatics had even put up loudspeakers with liturgies playing all day. Fortunately, the police came to our rescue and we were able to complete our shoot.
You always use myth in an otherwise contemporary film…
Well, even Shakespeare used to allude to mythology. I think one can make use of myths. In the film, Ulysses’ Gaze, the allusion to Ulysses was archetypal besides being metaphorical. So, it also depends on how you want to play with mythology.
What do you feel about the technological advancement in filmmaking?
It creates possibilities, for sure. But digital cinema is still not so good. Once it acquires the same standard as films that don’t use digital effects, it will be an important step for cinema.
Do you think modern India can also inspire the kind of films that you do?
I have not seen a lot of India, but I feel it’s important in this age. I travel a lot and I’ve been impressed by a lot of countries, which I’d never imagined would be so amazing.
What do you think of Hollywood films?
Hollywood doesn’t interest me. But having said that, there are a lot of American directors whose work I adore - Paul Schrader and Martin Scorcese, to name a couple. I thought Taxi Driver was simply brilliant.
And what about Bollywood?
(Laughs) I have no idea.
Any filmmaker you would like to work with?
All the filmmakers from my generation. I think they are simply brilliant. I had the honour of meeting Akira Kurosawa. He was one of the best filmmakers in the world.