Costas Zapas • Director
by Irene Nikopoulou
07/11/2008 - One of the most outstanding directors of auteur cinema, Costas Zapas gained international acclaim with Uncut Family (2004) and The Last Porn Movie (2006). With Minor Freedoms [film focus] his trilogy on the family is complete.
Cineuropa: Minor Freedoms is the title of your latest film. However, in the film there is too little freedom. Your characters seem to have no choice.
Costas Zapas: This is a great political discussion because in reality "minor freedoms" are all what we have left. I do not know if this affects only my characters or every citizen in the world because we as people have chosen to become a mass rather than citizens. A mass has obligations but no rights.
In contrast, citizens have obligations they have to follow and rights they have to claim. Sometimes characters consist of special elements but if we compare them to the people next door or to our own image in the mirror we come to the conclusion that our own freedoms are minor in this new globalised status quo.
Your characters could be placed anywhere in the globalised world. They are everyday people with a specific political and social background who are facing their limits.
Auteur cinema has to produce something beyond borders. In order for this to happen a filmmaker has not only to refer to everyday life but also transform these images from everyday life into something epic. He should use symbols that can be useful universally.
What happens to Fanny, my main character, is something that happened to Iphigenia in the Greek tragedy but is also happening today. We are all aware of human trafficking and how much despair it hides. We are all aware that incest takes place in the world’s rural areas as well as in the cities.
Incest is considered a taboo for family-centered societies in general and for Greek society in particular. You have also presented other, diverse forms of family dysfunctions in your previous films. What connection is there?
As a filmmaker, I was always interested in the so-called state and its contents: country, religion and family, which are actually the cornerstones of modern societies.
I began with the third, the family, because this is the first social stage in which we form and develop our political and religious views. This film completes my trilogy on family, made up of Uncut Family, the Last Porn Movie and Minor Freedoms. An experienced viewer can trace psychoanalysis sessions in my films. Family plays a significant role in the development of one’s personality and consequently in the development of an entire society, as we are still mammals who live in herds.
The paternal figure in your film is domineering and resembles a torturer. His children suffer his personality. Nevertheless, everyone is simultaneously a victim and a victimizer.
I would expand this a little bit by saying that no one is recognized as a victim, or as victimizers in our globalised society. This is something devious because it decays the structures. It circumvents any sense of law, be it moral or conventional. We should bear in mind that a typical Greek tragedy always began with the circumvention of moral laws.
My characters are indeed neither victims nor victimizers. I believe that all people can be good and bad at the same time. The energy that surrounds us is only one. It is through us that this energy is expressed in a good or in a bad way. To quote Prometheus: "Everything has been decided. No one is free".
In my opinion, authority at its core has always been the same. The only thing that changes for humans is our everyday life. This gets better or worse depending on various circumstances, but power in the sense of authority remains the same.
What values do you oppose to decaying authority?
I live my life for two things: love and art. Love not only does exist but it is not an invisible power. It is a power that truly exists. I also live for art. Since the whole world is corrupt to the extent that the law is also corrupt, I think that art is the only thing in the world that can rise above the law without bearing any consequences from the law.
I have been consciously following my own path in filmmaking. I believe that a person’s first birth is false. The true birth of a person comes when they decide it is so. When they decide their family, their identity, the choices they will make, what their life will be like. When I decided I would live for love and art, that was a real birth to me. This is the so-called "other" in psychoanalysis, as specified by Jacques Lacan. This means that I consciously follow a path in life and in art.