CULTURE

The female face of Greek cinema

The face of Greek cinema is female, this season, at least. It is as though Greek film directors, even if the vast majority are still men, had agreed among themselves to give the last word to women, their lives and their problems. This, and the highly metaphysical approach by Greek filmmakers, are perhaps the most interesting and characteristic trends of the new Greek films. Female characters no longer have a simply complementary function. They are not simply partners, lovers or objects of sexual desire for the male characters, as witnessed in an entire host of sexual comedies over the past few years. The camera now focuses on the women themselves, who either take their lives into their own hands or crumble in the effort to deal with the difficulties. With tenderness They are, however, realistic women, dealing with real and contemporary problems – illness, proffering or a lack of love, debts – and are approached with the same tenderness and love by the directors, irrespective of their film styles. Constantinos Giannaris gives us perceptive; Vangelis Serdaris is conservative, Yiannis Fangras clumsy, Christos Dimas nostalgic, Michalis Reppas and Thanassis Papathanasiou grotesque, and Dora Masklavanou knowing. It remains to be seen how female audiences, who are more regular cinemagoers than men, will react to the cinematographic view of their sex. Three heroines In Constantinos Giannaris’s «August 15,» the three heroines are the ones who guide or are guided by the action. The men, although present, are in the background and dependent upon their partners. Amalia Moutousi’s Katia is marked by her luckless efforts to become a mother, despite the fact that she is a doctor who helps childless women. The stance taken by Sandra (Theodora Tzimou) determines her partner’s choices after a tragic accident. Eleni Kastani’s Morfoula, even if she appears weak in the face of her small daughter’s illness, inspires wonder with her faith and persistence. Angela Brouskou is presented – not by chance – as the Virgin Mary, as a mother (the voice) and as a chance victim. Silent strength The events are deceptive in Vangelis Serdaris’s movie «The Seventh Sea of Love.» Theodoros Skourtas’s Major, the «boss,» is ultimately weak and his authority ephemeral. The young servant Aglaia (Katerina Papadaki) is contested over by both the Major and his wife (Maria Kavoukidou). Although an almost silent character, she manages to determine all their fates. More extreme, almost caricatural, is the way in which the leading female roles are represented in Reppas and Papathanasiou’s parody «Silicon Tears.» Using the cliches of old Greek cinema, the heroines embody female characteristics in an exaggerated form. They worry, fall in love, kill and avenge, portraying all this through a rich variety of actresses who play the roles (Anna Panayiotopoulou, Mirka Papaconstantinou, Maria Kavoyianni, etc.). Their extremism is in complete contrast to the disarming realism which characterizes Stratos Tzitzis’s «Rescue Me.» His heroine, Anna (Maria Zorba, who won Best Actress at the Thessaloniki Film Festival), is what could be called «a typical 30-something.» She works hard, plays little, is disheartened by her relationships, anxious about money, worried about the future and longs for a shoulder to lean on. Alexandra (Tamila Koulieva) in «Tomorrow is Another Day,» directed by Dora Masklavanou, has a more specific problem to face: She is alone, her husband is absent and she is searching for a house for herself and her son in Athens in August. The various people she encounters offer her little help, and when they do have good intentions, she is wary of them. Confused A new house gives us the opportunity to meet Riki (Hecabe Douma), the heroine of «Still Looking For Morphine.» A confused adolescent who places her personal choices above all else and attempts to hide her womanhood behind minor theft and drugs. Christos Dimas focuses on a group of adolescent boys in «The Cistern.» The boys may be the main characters, but the family is run by the woman of the house. These women love, protect, are jealous and resort to every means to get their own way, even to reading coffee grounds and casting spells. Let’s see what some of the leading actresses themselves have to say about this season’s «female» trend in Greek cinema. -Maria Zorba Star of «Rescue Me» «It was about time this happened. Such a trend has existed in low-budget movies in Europe for some years now. Stratos Tzitzis needed a woman’s view for the part. He sought my opinion and observed me. I had a lot of material to give and felt that I had a great screenplay in front of me with this role. Women have been represented quite one-dimensionally in Greek films until recently. The way things are developing is encouraging for both male and female roles. Film is an ideal means by which to observe life more humanely. There have been warm reactions to the film from both sexes. Many reviewers criticize the film’s happy end, but the women who see the film like this. They all want the finale with the prince. It’s a new version of the fairy tale, one we all need.» -Dora Masklavanou Director of «Tomorrow is Another Day» «Women had been neglected by cinema. It is as though their interest and charm has just been discovered. The truth is that it is more interesting for a man to focus upon women even if he has a negative viewpoint, a misogynist. I wrote this script because I felt female characters were lacking in cinema and wanted to create a role that I would be jealous of as an actress. This year many directors have represented very different women in an interesting way. It is a good, if difficult, year for Greek cinema, as there are touching and recognizable heroines, familiar characters who are realistic. I hope that there is a positive response from the audience. The women who will see them in the cinema will enjoy them. Why should they only watch Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts?» -Eleni Kastani Star of «August 15» «My role is based upon the relationship between the mother and her children. Even though this year there are more male directors, they approach women with love, with understanding. In any case, there is no interest in a film without women. However one looks at it, from the content of the role to the spectacle provided by a beautiful woman. Even in the theater, men have an advantage, yet there are more and better actresses, even in the drama schools. I hope that directors bear this in mind. I see a dynamism in the young generation and believe that it will take over from the older one.» -Hecabe Douma Star of «Still Looking for Morphine» «The story lines of this year’s films have captured women as they truly are today. However liberated today’s women might be, sexual discrimination and bosses who make a pass at you still exist. In the film, Riki, my character, attempts to hide her gender as a form of defense. On the other hand, women can negotiate their way much easier if they play their gender role. I want, as a member of the audience, to see more films with women in leading roles. Especially if the part is played well, then you can connect more with ‘women’s’ movies.»