“It emerged out of discussions with my co-writer,” he says. “We discussed various things. What happens when you die? Do your friends really remember you? How does their life change? We were trying to figure out how you could cope with that. That’s how this premise emerged. We have a nurse that ends up standing in for the dead. Where will that lead?”
Though Alps and Dogtooth have no shared characters, the films feel very much like companion pieces. This is the real world, but the environment is also quietly fantastic.
“WelI, having finished the film, I suddenly realised that main character is taking an opposite journey to the similar character in Dogtooth. She is trapped in this place and yearns to get out. But the character in Alps is trying to belong. She is trying to get in somewhere. So there are opposite journeys there.”
And both films are set in desperate, largely unhappy places. It must be an awful pain being a Greek artist in the current climate. Whether you work involves teddy bears or spaceships, interviewers will inevitably get round to wondering if the subtext is really your country’s ongoing economic meltdown. Nothing in Yorgos’s films explicitly references that calamity. But the atmosphere of simmering anxiety does seem appropriate for films created in the midst of crisis.
“I always like to let people think whatever they like. But how the crisis is connected to a film is tricky. Each affects the other in so many ways. Even when you’re the person who made the film, you can’t quite say what influenced it. The films are not about the crisis, but they are made within the crisis. So, the crisis is certain to run through them.”
One is bound to ask the same questions when considering Yorgos’s recent decision to move to London. Born in Athens, he had managed to forge a pretty successful career in the nation’s TV industry. The critical success of Dogtooth then brought him prominence within a certain highbrow elite. Plenty of directors leave home after their first hit. But Yorgos is in a different position. He must know that people suspect him of fleeing the financial maelstrom.
“Part of that maybe is true. I have been trying to make films in Greece for years and it’s always hard,” he says. “I made three there, but you always want to try other ways. So, it’s not just about the crisis. It’s about trying to evolve new ways of making films. I always wanted to work in a different language. I wanted to do that anyway. I would like to work in languages that I don’t actually speak. But it does help to move away at this time. Things were always bad in Greece. But now it’s much worse.”
But the grim events in Alps do not act as any sort of metaphor for that crisis? The film is largely set among grieving citizens. So, it could be read in that way.