Efthymis Filippou: Α View to a Kill

What would you expect from an interview with Efthymis Filippou, co-writer of Yorgos Lanthimos’ "Alps"?

Meaningful insight on the new wave of Greek cinema?
In-depth confessions about his next script and all the films he’s going to plagiarize next?
Tearful memories about his first time at the movies?
All the dirt on his professional relationship with Yorgos Lanthimos?

Well, guess what? You’re getting all of the above and more!

Whether jumping off the Eiffel Tower or climbing the Mont Blanc, it’s pretty obvious Efthymis Filippou – co-author of "Alps" and "Dogtooth" – will go to great … heights to get his cinematic kicks. And although we’ll never know whether this interview is just a big joke or a serious insight into his pop-infused psyche, it’s pretty obvious he’s not afraid to walk the line, causing Greek cinema a few vertigo attacks along the way.

Can you remember the first movie that meant anything to you as a child? Which one was it and what was transpiring on the screen?

Roger Moore was chasing Grace Jones on the Eiffel Tower and she was wearing a black leotard with batwing sleeves. In the end she jumped off and I think was rescued by Christopher Walken in a speedboat. I was scared shitless of Grace Jones for a really long time. I think I went to see it with my mom or uncle, can’t remember which. Also, when the Duran Duran theme song came on, someone in the front row got up and started singing and dancing. He knew all the lyrics. Actually, come to think of it, he might have missed a few, but I was too young to know any better.

What do you notice about people around you? What details attract your attention on the street, at work or when others are talking to you?

At first it’s probably their clothes and then their ringtones.

What dead person would you like to be a surrogate for, even if it’s just for one day?

Richard Burton when he was kicking Elizabeth Taylor. I’m sure they laughed about it afterwards.

How did they convince you to appear in "Alps", knowing you don’t actually like to be on camera?

The actor who was supposed to play the part changed his mind two days before the shoot. Yorgos asked me to do it and I said no. Then he told me I had no choice, so I said yes. I shaved off my moustache on the day of the shoot but I didn’t have any shaving cream left and it hurt like hell.

What were you thinking during the oral sex scene with Aggeliki Papoulia?

My mom at the movie theater with her jaw on the floor and a mouth full of popcorn and saliva.

Do you remember the first sentence of the first idea of your first script?

Not at all. It was probably something like, "We’re in a house in the suburbs with a tall fence and a big pool" or something to that effect.

The foreign press called the recent burst of local film activity "the weird wave of Greek cinema". Do you agree with the characterization and what do you consider a paradox? Do you think of yourself as weird?

I don’t know if the new Greek wave is weird – I don’t even know if it’s a wave. A bunch of people making completely unrelated films doesn’t make it a trend, just because they all happen to be Greek. As far as the paradox is concerned, I don’t really need to define it when reality does such a good job! For example, a scene where "a man covered in blood is slapping another man covered in cake inside a dirty swimming pool" isn’t particularly weird, I’ m sure it has happened more than once somewhere in the world and it could certainly happen to anyone of us. If someone had told me this time last year that I would be performing oral sex on Aggeliki in a retail lighting outlet on Vouliagmenis Avenue, I would have probably laughed. Life is funny and people are strange.

How do you and Yorgos Lanthimos collaborate when you’re working on a script together? Do you write separately and exchange notes? Could you describe your process?

We pretty much worked the same way on both «Dogtooth» and «Alps». We discuss an idea, then I start writing, we get together, Yorgos adds or deletes, I rewrite we re-meet, Yorgos calls me out on my bullshit and we get some coffee. Then Yorgos eats cake, usually chocolate, I like vanilla. I think writing with somebody else is really tough, so the way we put the scripts together is ideal to me. Getting started is always the hard part, when you don’t really know why you’ve written the scene or why you’re told it’s crap, but you’ll eventually find out – or at least you think you will.

If you were the one making the speech at the Venice International Film Festival awards ceremony, what would you have said?

I don’t really have anything to say at these things. Other than “Thank you”, that is. I hate big speeches and I don’t think anyone’s interested whether or not my wife, my father or a childhood friend supported me throughout the process.

First you were accused of plagiarizing a film and now a book. Please give us an exclusive on what you intend to steal in the future!

I’m going to write a script about an idiot in a plaid shirt who runs across America, gets his picture taken with lots of famous people, likes to eat chocolate and makes connections between life and a box of chocolates.

What did your family say about "Dogtooth"? Did they lock you in your childhood room and refuse to let you out of the house?

My mom didn’t watch it right away. Sometime later we were talking casually on the phone about whether I’d bought washing detergent or whether I’d paid the bills and before we hung up she said: "Oh, I saw Dogtooth by the way. It was good. See you later!"

What movie do you dream of writing?

I don’t dream of writing anything in particular. What concerns me the most is whether I’ll be able to keep working with people I like.

If you were a film critic, how would you rate "Alps"?

I don’t think I’d be able to rate it for many years to come. I haven’t even been able to see it as a whole, just individual scenes crammed into one film.

Who or what is irreplacable to you?

Sometimes I think everything is irreplacable and other time I feel everything can be replaced very easily. I’m not sure…

Do you think you’re ready for something more pop?

Nobody can possibly say for sure whether they’re ready for something more pop.

Take A tour of the "Alps" with Yorgos Lanthimos

Read about the 68th Venice Film Festival Awards

Catch up with the new Greek wave: Greek cinema 2011-2012: Safety in numbers?