A director’s vision
Loukia Rikaki's theatre presentation ‘SurrealEROS’ is being screened nightly, the stand-up comedy performances she set up are doing well while a new film is on the way. Nonetheless, she found time to speak with the ‘Athens News’ and shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes.
THERE seems to be a young breed of directors who are injecting Greek cinema with just the scrum needed to give it a national identity of its own. There’s plenty of anticipation and things look promising indeed, even failures are striking a vein of creativity. Director Loukia Rikaki disagrees that this is a renaissance, pointing out that it’s more towards a natural progression which was bound to come.
"It's an expected, normal social development. I wouldn’t say it’s a renaissance because the film work that was done in the Fifties was also important. Its depth may have alienated part of the audience, but was necessary," she says, adding that audiences are seeking alternatives to gimmicky television productions. "Some people watch it. I watch it sometimes, but television and its portrayal of simplistic situations aren't what it's all about."
Though Rikaki can't be accused of providing "simplistic situations" in her work, she nonetheless stresses the importance of having her work understood. "Though work is ‘intellectual’, this is not the main point," she says, insisting that the challenge lies in sharing complex thoughts with the wider public. "At the end of the day, what do we want? We want some information to make emotional impact." Take, for instance, a play like SurrealEROS, with its string of abstract concepts and loose plot. "Very strange audience reactions included some people crying when they watched it," she says. "People with no higher education were nonetheless moved by the intensity of ideas which means that they came with open minds."
Surrealists' belief in "art for all " is something which Rikaki shares. 'Often artists say I am the art and you arc the audience'. I don't feel that way at all, because art is not just the privilege of ‘intellectuals'," she says. "In a work like this, you destroy the ego trip for the actor by not setting the artist apart and mediating an interaction with the audience instead."
A great deal of preparation was required to achieve this. "In order to be able to communicate the essence of Twenties surrealism, you need to experience it," says Rikaki. Indeed, the whole acting process of SurrealEROS took the form of some sort of experiment in psychotherapy where actors were guided by texts, games, experiments, case studies and workshops more so than being directed. "In this type of work, where the concept is based on freedom of imagination, we were interested in immediate reaction without hesitation," she notes.
"The work is not necessarily shocking but it was tough for some actors to go through the meaning of sexual references like masturbation," Rikaki says. "Actors searched through their own personal lives in order to make the work more meaningful. The idea was not to shock but to make it accessible. In some scenes this was done successfully, in others it wasn't."
Where she fell short in theatre, Rikaki hopes to compensate in the film version of SurrealEROS which premiered yesterday. 'With the camera you can choose to enlarge or orientate," she says. "For instance, when I placed the mirror on the wail, I was indicating that the viewer could see parts of the play through ihe mirror, but I’m not sure whether the audience made use of such details.'
The filming took place over five sessions, with the audience present to spur the actors on, despite technical difficulties which this caused. "You can’t replace the atmosphere created by audience presence," she insists.
Filming or theatre work? "I prefer film, it’s an obvious choice because you arc able to manipulate or ι use all your means and the artistic input you get from actors. At the end of the day. you're the one who decides and chooses to see something over something else," she says.
Her upcoming film Agreement of Characters is yet again an offbeat work, tracing the romance between a 40- year-old dancer-choreographer and a champion archer, each carrying their own emotional baggage. I began this film beforeSurrealEROS, however, the play helped me review the work and become more daring in presenting a few insights which I wouldn’t have done otherwise," she says.
She wrote the script in collaboration with Yiorgos Notaras, who was also involved in her previous film, Quartet in Four Movements, which proved a box-office success despite the criticism it received. "In my film I used [Zbigniew] Preisner’s music because it related to the plot about a composer who ; came to Greece to make a career and study and write music about locations and themes. There was controversy when I used Kostis Palamas’ poetry. People asked ‘Why Palamas?’," she says. "When we don’t trust our own poets and interpreters we arc hindered from developing our own personal style as a nation. We are mistrustful of our own things. Why don’t we trust our society?"
Rikaki has also attracted her fair share of rumors surrounding the financial backing she receives in her projects. Even here, we found her very open to shed some light on a very grey area. She was raised by her mother, a teacher who was involved in educational documentaries, but has been independent since the age of 16, doing everything from babysitting to working as a journalist for papers such as Kathimerini. "I only worked once with my mother and this was a hopeless failure because we are too different and both equally as intense," she says. "So we decided to preserve our personal relationship and keep away from the professional."
As for her recent partnership with her companion of 15 years, Thanassis Kastaniotis "I had bought the building five years ago but couldn't afford to renovate because of my financial responsibilities with Orama Productions. Thanassis wanted a cultural cafe and I was paying rent to use other venues. I was very apprehensive following the work with my mother, but we felt mature enough in our relationship not to squabble over bills. Everything is above board and 50-50," she says, but on second thought adds that having a personal and professional relationship has made them both far more careful in the latter.
Screenings at 104 begin at 8 nightly, followed by stand-up comedy performances (tickets at 1,500 drachmas include drink). 104 is at 104 Themistok- leous St, Exarcheia.
By Mary Sinanidis