Jacqueline Lentzou • Director of Moon, 66 Questions
"This is a film from the heart, with heart"
- BERLINALE 2021: We talked to the Greek filmmaker to try to unpick her daring approach to her first feature, screening in Encounters
Greek writer-director Jacqueline Lentzou's first feature, Moon, 66 Questions [+see also:
interview: Jacqueline Lentzou
film profile], screening in Encounters at the Berlinale, tells the story of a father-daughter relationship in rather a unique way. In this chat, we try to unwrap the filmmaker's daring approach.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to tell this story, and did you develop it together with Sofia Kokkali? The title “A Film by Jacqueline Lentzou with Sofia Kokkali” seems to imply this.
Jacqueline Lentzou: I wanted to make a film about unspoken love and its consequences. I added Sofia’s name in the main title both as an honour and as an act of gratitude, of love. Artemis’s character could not have been played by any other girl, and Artemis’s character’s complexity is intertwined with Sofia’s complexity in itself. So, we did not develop the story together, but I was developing it with her in mind, so it is a film by me with Sofia.
The moon and the tarot cards provide an intriguing dimension to the film. Why did you feel the need to introduce this aspect?
Both the moon and the tarot cards represent prediction methods, and they refer to one of the main forces that put Artemis in the position she is in: she wants to know. Initially, she does not know what it is that she has to know, yet gradually, the question gets more specific, and turns out to be, “Why?” She wants to know why a man who used to ski on the most dangerous slopes now cannot get out of bed unassisted. Why do people cease to exist in the way they used to? We know the symptoms, but we don’t know what leads us to them. We know the consequences of a disease, but we don’t know why we got it in the first place.
A true act of love is to devote time and energy to finding out why. This is pivotal in my own belief system. Huge chunks of agitation and anxiety just vanish magically once you know why, and this sense of calmness replaces them. People look for answers in earthly and otherworldly places. The more they want to know, the “crazier” the methods they will reach out to. Artemis is a character who discreetly, in the film, seems to look for answers elsewhere, or rather, the film itself builds an environment full of signs and lets Artemis decode them.
You use various techniques in a way that somehow simultaneously brings the viewer closer to Artemis and Paris, and distances the audience from film as a form. How did you come up with this approach, and what was your goal?
The film discusses, among other things, the idea of a split and, at the exact same time, the idea of unity. “Internal” cannot exist without “external”, and “everything” cannot exist without “nothing”. This very way that I am writing now – in pairs – enabled me to figure out that the most important word for me with regard to the film was “duality”.
Apart from the themes that come in twos (health/disease, truth/illusion), I knew that duality had to be present in the very form of the film. This is where the two textures arose, which happen to echo the different points in time along with any associations that can be thrown up. I wanted to make a film that breaks – as a film, as a structure – at the same time as connecting the two protagonists through visual tricks.
I am deeply interested in the idea of film form. It was challenging for me personally at various points in my life. I would ask myself after watching it, "What is this? Is it a film? Is it an installation? Is it a documentary?" And the harder it was to answer, the better I think the film was getting. At the end of the day, it is a film-collage, both moment-wise and texture-wise.
How did you work on the characters with Kokkali and Lazaros Georgakopoulos?
We used Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse for Georgakopoulos’s character’s psychological background, and with Sofia, it was many letters, walks, drinks and talks. Simple human things. It is a film from the heart, with heart. I had no choice but to work in a way that did not remind me of “work”, but in a way that reminded me of life.
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