PM: Another important thing is your treatment of gender issues in the film. Red Maria is queer, but we do not have the stereotypical queer portrayal according to which the character is passive and the victim of society. On the contrary he/she is very dynamic.
CZ: As far as I am concerned there are no homosexuals or heterosexuals, there are people that know how to transgress boundaries and enjoy life and their bodies and others that are stiff and unimaginative irrespective of gender. And Red Maria as a character is a very revolutionary cinematic figure in the sense that he/she transcends all the gender clichés and conventions propagated by the film industry.
PM: Of particular interest in the film is the employment of music. You have a combination of heavy metal with Maria Callas and other contemporary material.
CZ: The music is not just embellishing the film. It does not simply reflect feelings but participates in the diegesis, like an actor. When you watch the film it is like reading a musical notation. We did a screen test and some people characterized the film as a political musical. Music reflects the characters’ environment and it is also the flow of the story, so you cannot dissociate it from the film’s form and content.
PM: So it sounds like a political musical, as you said. Talking about the political in cinema. There is a tendency in Film Theory, which considers that the political implications of a film have to do more with its form rather than the content. Emblematic is Jean-Luc Godard’s dictum ‘I do not make political films—I make films politically’. Where would you classify yourself?
CZ: I do not believe in form. I believe in meanings, because that is what makes a film alive. The definition of political cinema is very problematic, because everything has to start from the beginning.
We live in a universal state of decadence and this does not solely concern Greece or just the global economy, but global politics, human communication and culture, too. We need to redefine the term political cinema and mainly because people nowadays do not care about politics. This is Red Maria’s experiment, because the film is about young people and intends to stimulate thinking about a whole range of issues that are political.
PM: You told me that recently you had a screening test with young people of various backgrounds that had no relation with Art Cinema whatsoever, but their responses were very positive.
CZ: One young girl asked me whether I am planning to make a sequel of the film, because she wanted to know what will happen to the characters. It was really funny! Of course such a film cannot have a second part. But still, I think that the film works better with an audience that does not have a background in art cinema. It is a free film in form and content and it is about young peoples’ fears and desires. Music helps a lot as well, we use loads of heavy metal and other contemporary stuff, too.
PM: To go back to politics, Bertolt Brecht is considered to be the father of political art and his thought has influenced political cinema, too. There is a theoretical tendency which is named post-Brechtian. According to this tendency, Brecht’s art of exhibiting the contradictions is still valid but his suggestions for resolutions of these contradictions are not. In other words, the artist is not in the ‘know’ position, but he gives his audience material for thought asking for a more productive participation.
CZ: Of course my films are not didactic. How can you offer a solution when things are subject to constant change? The end of the film is open-ended and one cannot tell whether it is a happy end or a tragic one. I come from a country like Greece that we have suffered a lot from people that want to ‘teach a lesson’. Offering a single-minded solution is something like political fascism. Yet on the other hand, we need to offer food for thought to the audience. That’s how I see Red Maria’s statement—that the revolution is dead.
PM: When is Red Maria’s official screening?
CZ: We are in discussions with many International Film Festivals in Europe and North America that have expressed interest in screening it.
PM: For your previous trilogy you had a distribution contract with Zentropa, Lars von Trier’s and Peter Aalbæk Jensen’s company. In a way we could see that your films go beyond the Greek national borders and refer to an International audience.
CZ: I have never made money in Greece. My films have been recognized abroad but never in my own country. I am glad that all my works are produced independently and I did not have to make any compromises to get government funding. On the other hand, my film The Last Porn Movie (2006) is incorporated in the curriculum of the Cinema Department at the University of Montreal.
PM: Could we call Red Maria a punk musical?
CZ: Yes to an extent yes. I am very interested in punk and the great thing about it is that it started from the margins of society from the poor parts of London. Its power lied in its authenticity; that is, it reflected something true and raw that had to be expressed publicly. The same applies with everyone involved in arts. What matters is if your films or your music has something to say about this world and not whether you have graduated from a Film or Music department of a prestigious University.