The Greek film Defunct is shown in the Main Competition Programme. We present to you the interview with director Zacharias Mavroeidis.
-This is a very personal story that deals with the attitude of the present generation towards the past in different ways. To what extent is it personal, how much have you woven yourself into the main character?
It is all personal in a way. There are many ways to express yourself, sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not quite. In this film, what is personal and what is not seem very similar, I also have a grandfather who died when I was little and who was a hero in my family. Now that I am a grown-up, I found myself in a strange dialogue with this absent figure in my life. At the same time, the film was set in 2012, at the height of the Greek financial crisis, we used narratives from Greek history, from the forties, to understand what was happening. The Forties somehow became relevant in public discourse during those early years of the crisis. I think it is because that war generation left their heroism to us as inheritance, so we felt responsible to reach the level of our illustrious ancestors.
- You set the story in a small place, are the divisions more visible there?
The film is set in an Athens suburb named after a very famous general who fought during World War II, and during the Civil War against the Communists. After the war, he created the settlement by distributing the land to the generals and their families. It is a very unusual part of Athens, quiet and conservative, with lots of gardens. I remember as a kid going to that weird neighborhood because my grandfather lived there.
-The film makes political points, such as the political right and the guilt go together, and a right-winger without guilt is a fascist. Where did you hear that?
Nowhere, I came up with that myself. That line refers to Greek history, the civil war ended in 1949, and until 1974 was a period in which the Communists were exiled, fled to various countries, to Yugoslavia, Hungary, settled in communist countries. There were a lot of leftists left in Greece who were persecuted and driven into exile. The guilt refers to that, the right has treated the left really badly.
-How hard is it for you to come up with a new project? The success of Yorgos Lanthimos in the world gives the impression that Greece is investing more in films which brings Greece into the public eye.
Lanthimos created a wave of interest in Greek film, which coincided with the Greek crisis, so it was somehow a charity of world festivals that wanted to take care of our artists. So anyone who rode that wave prospered in some ways, but Lanthimos' accomplishments and great films did not really change much in reality. In addition to my two films, I also made a documentary that I really like, and I wrote a book. One has to manage and find a way to tell their stories, it is not easy to make a film.
-At the end of the film, there is a dramatic twist, did you start from that while writing the script?
No, it did not really exist at the beginning. It was hard to make that twist because it requires a lot of attention, it is challenging for the audience to blend it with the narrative, but I think it is a good challenge. To me, this twist eventually somehow destroyed the myth of heroism, in the sense that heroes could be completely constructed. The same twist brings back his grandfather's heroic status, but in a completely different way, he was a hero because he consciously did something that had great consequences on his life, in spite of society and establishment, he did it for love.