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Alexandros Avranas • Director

“Sadism is a good way to talk about the end of morality”

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2017: We talked to Greek director Alexandros Avranas about the sheer extremity of Love Me Not, screening in San Sebastián’s Official Selection

Alexandros Avranas  • Director

Alexandros Avranas rose to prominence with his Venice-awarded sophomore feature, Miss Violence [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alexandros Avranas
film profile
]
 (2013). After True Crimes [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
 (2016), his first US outing, the director returned to Greece for his fourth feature, Love Me Not [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alexandros Avranas
film profile
]
, which is taking part in the Official Selection of the 65th San Sebastián International Film Festival. We talked to him about the extremity of his story, his references and the end of morality.

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Cineuropa: What was the main idea behind this unconventional and extreme story?
Alexandros Avranas:
 The movie is based on true events that happened in Greece in 2011. Extreme or not, it is something that happened and will happen again. “Unconventional stories”, such as this one, are products of our society, and they seem to be becoming more and more frequent. The movie tries to question morality, the moral values in all kinds of relationships. Relationships that are based on exploitation and human cannibalism are there to be investigated. It is very sad to observe how people’s egos are becoming more and more important. Feelings such as compassion, caring and sympathy for others seem like they belong to the past. The needs of the individual are becoming more and more important, disregarding the value of the other’s life. This sentiment of “your death is my life” seems to be overwhelming our society nowadays.

You are once again dealing with the decay of a family, in this case a couple. Is there something rotten in Greek society?
Miss Violence was a movie that travelled a lot and was very well received. In a way, this revealed to me that the matter of the “rotten family” is something that concerns a lot of people, also extending beyond the Greek borders. At the same time, it is true that Greek society is becoming increasingly rotten, due to its political and financial issues. It is very important for me to offer some kind of awakening from a sleep that looks to be endless. This is my overall reason for making cinema.

You are also collaborating with Miss Violence’s lead actress, Eleni Roussinou, and Christos Loulis. Do the films share a similar vein?
When we did rehearsals for Love Me Not, we had an inside joke – that Eleni and Christos met in the restroom in Miss Violence’s hospital scene, and after the death of the father, they got married and this is the sequel. But this was just a joke. The truth is that the movies have nothing in common. Love Me Not has a totally different approach to a totally different subject, which is less tangible as it is more of an idea or a value, rather than a phenomenon like paedophilia is. Collaborating with them simply has to do with the fact that they are two of the best actors in Greece. They can handle the deafening silence between the words in the dialogue, the loneliness of being a human in a false perfect world.

When the story becomes more hard-hitting, it feels like you are paying homage to other films. Are there any references for this sadistic part?
Sadism in this movie is a good way to talk about the end of morality. It is well known that sadism relies on the need for power and the loss of one’s identity. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò is a perfect example. It is one of the most important films talking about the meaning of immorality in fascism, the immorality of power. If you want to subjugate someone, you need to make them shed their moral values. For me, the purpose was very clear.

I used this reference not because I was lacking inspiration, but to create a sub-historical connection on this theme. People’s need to “devour” and dominate each other is something that continues to exist and is becoming more and more common at a time when peace “prevails”. It appears to be a human need to destroy the other in order to feel stronger.

Love Me Not feels quite versatile in terms of genres. Is it a social drama, a thriller or a horror film?
When I was writing and preparing the film, I didn’t feel the need to specify or categorise it. Yet I knew that the construction of the movie was something risky, as it clearly combines all of these three genres you mention. The challenge for me was to find the right balance between them and to make the movie a powerful experience for the viewer. I wasn’t afraid to push the limits of genres and the audience’s perception – not as an autistic and egocentric process, but as a need to expand the communication with each viewer. I hope I succeeded.

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