Dimitris Bavellas • Director of In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand
“We are all Lauras”
by Marta Bałaga
- We chatted to Greek director Dimitris Bavellas, who, in his second film, In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand, looks for a porn star and finds his childhood instead
In his road movie In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand [+see also:
interview: Dimitris Bavellas
film profile], bringing a healthy dose of craziness to Tallinn Black Nights’ main competition, Dimitris Bavellas resurrects his favourite movies from his childhood as two friends leave everything behind to find a woman they have loved their entire lives – a forgotten porn sensation, one Miss Laura Durand.
Cineuropa: There is a retro feel to your story, which brought to mind all of those crazy films from the 1980s, like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which actually has a little cameo!
Dimitris Bavellas: I based my story on Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” monomyth. But yes, these were the films I used to watch when I was a child. They made us feel safe. The map that the guys are using looks like the one in The Goonies, and in one of the episodes, you can find this post-apocalyptic setting that reminded me of my personal favourite, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. There are also some nods to the cheap B-movies by Russ Mayer, classic black-and-white 1950s horrors. It’s all about this call to adventure, and hopefully, after a while, all of the clichés start to take on a new life. When describing this story, we used to say that it’s like Star Wars, but with a much higher budget [laughs].
With a road movie, you can have a lot of adventures within the same adventure. Was that appealing to you?
I liked the idea that whenever these guys decide to stop somewhere, they – and we, as viewers – are entering a different cinematic universe. That’s why this film is also based on The Odyssey, in a way – there’s even a Cyclops! It’s a horror-comedy without the blood, you could say, because we couldn’t afford the special effects. What I was trying to do here was to deal with two issues: reproduce the films that fascinated me when I was young somehow and, at the same time, criticise the world we all live in. I think that all of us, artists, are Lauras – or even all the people who live in contemporary Western civilisation. We are all the same, so when our world is turning from bad to worse, our only defence is to turn around and become elusive. These guys, Antonis and Christos, delve into their childhood memories instead of drinking and taking drugs. As funny as that might sound, they see their lost innocence in Laura Durand. Although don’t get me wrong – they still drink and take drugs.
They face some serious problems at the beginning of the film, related to money or even health. And yet they decide to leave everything behind and go off in search of this fantasy, but Laura remains a mystery.
It’s hard to make a film in Greece, so when you finally get to do it, you try to incorporate all of the things you love, I guess. Laura, and you can figure it out even from her name, has something to do with Otto Preminger’s Laura and Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. She is a femme fatale, yet so vulnerable and so down to Earth. She drives people crazy – she has this very peculiar effect on everyone she meets, and in a way, she destroys them. The quote I decided to include at the beginning of the film [about “runaways from the narrow-minded common sense of three dimensions”] is also a reference to that. What these guys are seeking, and what I am referring to here, is the fight for personal freedom, which can sometimes be an illusion – just like Laura.
Before I saw the film, you said I should watch it really loud. That makes sense, as the music really drags you along with the characters.
I wanted this movie to be energetic. We need to feel this now, with all the craziness going on in the United States or in Europe, the refugee crisis and people just dying every day. It’s a form of defence against the cynicism and cruelty that surrounds us. Luckily, I have a great relationship with my composer, George Boussounis – apart from the themes, he also wrote most of the songs that are heard in the film. One song per week, to be precise – he is a music machine! He helped me create not just a visual, but also a musical environment for these guys. I wanted it to be an experience for all the senses.
This type of story is basically my way of trying to reach out towards the lost innocence of the people from my generation. I find that contrast intriguing – that Laura, a porn star, would symbolise these guys’ lost youth, something they will never find again. I didn’t want to make a film about the so-called “crisis”, as especially in Greece, this topic is almost passé. Although the crisis itself is always there and getting worse and worse, especially with the new, almost extremist right-wing government that has come to power recently. But if our guys hadn’t been afflicted by unemployment, or if they hadn’t lost their benefits, they would never have embarked on this trip. Laura is their childhood, and that’s one thing in life that’s just sacred.
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