The lead actors Makis Papadimitriou and Elli Triggou in a scene from Suntan.
Interview: Maro Voulgari
Antiparos is a return to a root I have chosen
A middle-aged provincial doctor, a girl under the hot summer sun, youth, loneliness, a misunderstanding, Antiparos… Argyris Papadimitropoulos, director of the film Suntan, talks about his leads and the shootings on the island which for years now has been his chosen place.
You have filmed Antiparos in the way a director in love would film his muse. Tell us about your relation with it.
Evidently, for me Antiparos is one of the characters of the film. I don’t know if it is a muse but it is not merely background. I’d say it is yet another person. Anyway; my relation with Antiparos is an extreme one. I have lived it in all of its stages. The first time I saw it, I was sixteen and now I’m in my forties and I have never left it. During this time, I have changed thirty times. Antiparos is changing along with me, so the relation is permanent. Such a relation has its ups and downs. At times, I have been angry with Antiparos and then I have fallen in love with it again and again.
Your film has much freshness and youthful energy. However, the after taste is bitter. Is the disappointment of the middle-aged man who wants to live a love beyond any limits unavoidable?
There is neither rule nor inevitability. Bitterness is usually the outcome of wrong expectations.
If Kostis had managed to understand the mentality of the youths and had not become possessive he would still be at La Luna dancing with them. Kostis also uses the word “forever”, something which simply doesn’t exist in the young people’s vocabulary.
The big party of the holidays has…footnotes. The provincial doctor’s professional stalemate, the a-sentimental madness of an entire generation, the loneliness usually lurking in the big groups…
It is a matter of choice. Kostis appears to be a failure because he has not chosen to be there. For example, the island’s real doctor, Sotiris, is successful and happy because this was his original choice.
How long did it take you to shoot the film? What was the winter like on the island? How close did you get with the locals?
In all, we had seven weeks of shooting on the island. Six in the summer and one in the winter.
It was a very low budget production and we had to be well organized and stick to a tight schedule. We had enough help from the island, most of the people had a positive stand and despite the fact that the shooting took place in August when everybody was very busy, they helped us as much as they could and we thank them for this.
Antiparos in the film strongly reminds one of the 80’ s; an endless party under the hot sun. Is this, for you, an existent picture or an ideal image of the island you love?
I have not known Antiparos of the 80’s. I was born in 1976. I got to know Antiparos in the 90’s but what I know and I like is that its night life has not changed. The people drink at the squares till three in the morning and then walk to what I call the pilgrimage-La Luna. Although times have changed and the locals have also changed somewhat, the island remains the same. The party still goes on. I don’t describe a notional picture. This is the Antiparos I have lived and still live. Anyway, the music of the 80’s still plays anywhere one goes to have a good time.
To what places on the island would you take your hero, Kostis, if he were a real person and you were his host?
I will always love the camping beach; in the 90’s it was for me the only beach of the island, later as I was growing up, I began to discover its other parts. Faneromeni is also a magic place and if the weather was good I’d take him to Sifneiko. At Antiparos one has excellent choices for food. It is amazing that on such a small island one can eat so well and taste a superb local cuisine. And a gorgeous souvlaki!
How was the experience of the shootings for your lead, Makis Papadimitriou?
Makis lived somewhat like a hermit as opposed to the rest of us who mixed work with fun. First of all, he shouldn’t go out in the sun as of April, because he should look pale, not suntanned at all. So, when we rushed to the beaches with tins of beer, Makis stayed at his room with his book. All the rest of us were staying in the camping-we had set up a Galatians’ village-but Makis stayed at his room in the village. Makis is a professional and an excellent actor. He is not an artist who indulges in convenient mannerisms, doing the same thing again and again. This goes against his personality and his wishes and for this reason I believe he will never become a stock character actor.
The girl of Suntan, Elli Triggou, also appears to have been an ideal choice.
Elli has shown in her first work that she is an outstanding actress. She could have fallen into flamboyance and pose, but on the contrary I had a girl as I wanted her: suntanned, naked, with salt on the hair, natural and free, surrendering to the camera.
You have shot nakedness with great innocence. It takes mastery to do it…
Yes, for me it is important that after the first two minutes the spectator should not care whether the actors are dressed or naked. This should be so natural and integrated in the film as not to make any difference. This has to do with the way I and Christos Karamanis handled our frames and also with the generosity of the actors who felt free very soon and also very comfortable. For me this was the highest stake.
It is a group full of youthful drive. They have the speed of the young people. This is evident in the film and sets its tempo.
Well, we worked on this because they were guys who did not know each other. I brought all of them to Greece one month before the shooting and “forced” them to become friends, Of course they became friends! We went out together, we went to bars and beaches, we got drunk many times and we became a solid group as if we had known each other for many years and found a common tempo.
Which is the course of Suntan now?
Every day the film brings good news. This may be a prize in a festival, participation in some important film event or sales abroad. The film has been already bought in more than ten countries including America, England, Canada, Korea, France, Austria, Serbia and Australia. There will be distribution in cinemas and DVDs and this means that it will approach a broader public.
Paros and Antiparos have often been the location for a series of very successful advertisements you have shot here.
They make a perfect stage. For example, when you advertise a Greek beer, you want a Greek landscape; you want merriment, holidays, joyful people, a feast… The small port of Naousa offers all this generously. In this way the island promotes its product and the product promotes the island. It is a real feast because we party together with the locals. It is tiring but we enjoy it greatly. Now we are expecting the summer version of the beer I have been advertising, which will show more of Paros.
Shall we see you on the island this summer?
Of course. You know I never had a village of origin. Therefore, at some point I decided to make Antiparos my village of origin. It is a return to a root that I, myself have chosen.