CULTURE

Happiness is in simple things

She is the same age as her heroine, but the similarities between Katerina Evangelakou and the lead character in her film «Think it Over» stop there. Evangelakou would not faint in the middle of a square as an escape from the pressures of reality. She is a successful and dynamic professional with a sense of humor, imagination, sensitivity to go along with the six state cinema prizes awarded for her latest film that opened last Friday. Her heroine Maraki, however, is a talented and sensitive individual who stoically suffers a stifled life in the provinces until, one day, something happens which compels her to behave strangely. In her optimistic and bright comedy «Think it Over,» Katerina Evangelakou narrates women’s stories – contradictory, odd and complex, yet amazingly simple. She confesses that she has made a matriarchal film because she is not «so experienced as to be able to represent male characters as accurately.» She was, however, able to finish production in difficult conditions, with an admirable resolve and determination and without the final result betraying its minuscule budget. Moreover, with faithful friends and colleagues at her side, she has won great plaudits. Written and directed by Evangelakou, the film’s sets and costumes are by Julia Stavridou, music by Dimitra Galani and the cast features Mania Papadimitriou, Yvonne Maltezou, Christos Sterioglou and Lena Kitsopoulou, among others. This year has seen the rise of a dynamic generation of women with something to say. And a new generation of female politicians, managers, writers, artists. A coincidence? Nothing is just a coincidence. I think this has been in the pipeline for around 30 years now. Our language is not as rich as our lives, it is not precise enough to define new phenomena, and only after some years can we talk more clearly about them. In the film you talk about women who are at the critical age of 40. Why do you think this is such a critical age? Maraki, the central character, is pregnant and if she does not keep the baby she may not be able to have another. Biologically, then, this is a critical age. Romantic and introspective people feel that at the age of 40 they have reached the top of the hill and are looking down. You are at the peak, you start to think of death more seriously. You begin the descent. And even if you still have many years ahead of you, there is already a rich and full past behind you. If you drop dead at any moment, you have still had a full life. Before the age of 40, you think that anything could happen, that your craziest dream could come true. After 40, you stop imagining yourself as different from how you really are. Your heroine cannot handle reality. The fact that she has to make a decision stuns her so much that she collapses in the square. In the first drafts of the script, Maraki dies and everyone gathers at her funeral. Maraki grieves for all she has lost, for all the things she wanted to do and never did. Within this process of grieving, she realizes what she has. She is 40, she lives in a provincial town, she makes cakes, she complains, people don’t really like her, she has a half-crazy, agoraphobic mother, two cows of sisters and a best friend. This is enough in itself, and now she’s expecting a baby. When she gets up from her unconventional fall in the square she realizes that she already has some things, that she’s alive, that she wants to live. True happiness is very short-lived, like a flash, and it’s to be found in simple things. In moments, tastes, music, writing. I’ve discovered untold happiness through words. A series of words and meanings can be the perfect recipe for happiness at a particular moment. For happiness to work it must pass through all the «plumbing.» Through the heart, the mind, the stomach. One of the female characters in the film says, «What does a woman want? For someone to throw a cardigan over her shoulders.» This phrase has caused much comment. Aren’t you afraid that this phrase might bury decades of feminist achievement? These achievements won’t be buried by a phrase or a need. They are far too resistant to be endangered by a phrase. Even if there were a whole «cardigan movement!» This line revealed to me which woman truly needs a cardigan. The woman who neglects her appearance, who has chosen to invest time in more important things. It’s a big deal to be constantly done up and beautiful, it takes time and patience. Are the men who would offer a cardigan out there? Of course. Many men have realized that women are complicated because they have great needs that increase as the time they have to look after themselves shrinks. People automatically make similar moves. They do them, but they don’t discuss them. Those of us who discuss and comment upon them are the strange ones. How easy is it to make a film these days? For me it’s very complicated, it takes a lot of work and thought. Forget the outside factors, such as money. Just the effort to create a story is enough. And «Think it Over» is, I think, a very simple film. I wanted the first level to be complete. In many films the first level is missing. Directors go straight to what they want to say. A terrible mistake. We shouldn’t say the thing we want to say. This should be inferred. And this requires a lot of work on the script. Are you pleased when you hear your film being described as «handmade»? No. It would please me if they say it’s a good film, or admirable or funny. But handmade? All films are handmade. How much did «Think it Over» cost? It cost 165,000 euros. Seven colleagues have not been paid and everyone else received an average fee. I do not believe that in a civilized world trained people should not be paid for their work. You only find this in very poor film industries. Greek cinema is based very much upon comradeship. It’s one big family with lots of enmities and rivalries, yet which is governed by powerful unwritten laws between the technicians, actors and directors, which are strictly guarded. Would you have made a different film if you had more money? If I had only a little more money, I would have made a worse film. If I had over 360,000 euros, though, it would have been better. You take a moral position as regards money. With «Jaguar,» for example, I was very careful with the funding the Greek State gave me, but this ended up acting as a check on me. When people invest in you, you can’t not make the most that you can with it and do the best you can. On the other hand, it’s a double-edged sword, because the director must take risks. Money is a pressure on us and this has consequences which aren’t always so apparent.