SCREEN DIARY: THE WAITER at Raindance 2019
Our final film writeup from Screamdance at Raindance 2019 reports from the UK Premiere of Steve Krikris’ THE WAITER (2018), a moody character study in the mid-century microcosm of a mythical Athens. Krikris won Best Director Award at this year’s festival. Here’s what he said in the Q&A.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
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d. Steve Krikris, 2018 (Greece, 104 mins)
Audience Q&A with director Steve Krikris
There is a real story behind all this thing that you just saw. While I was living in New York in the late 80s, they killed my neighbour and they chopped him into pieces. Many many years later, I started writing about this and I made it into a film.
It was a very bizarre experience… At that time I was making a short film in New York, it was in August, really hot. The first signs I got were the smell on the corridor. Actually, I shot a scene with Aris [Servetalis] in the corridor where he gets the smell, and he comes out with a cologne, but I didn’t put it in… Anyway, then I would hear my neighbour’s alarm go off and never stop, because the guy was working at night, he was a nurse. Then one day in the morning, my door knocked, there were like 5 FBI guys. They came in and told me the story. That was it. But they caught him. A month later.
I was in a script writing seminar. I started talking to the tutor who was doing the seminar. I was working on a different script at that time. But he was saying you should start writing something that you know and that you’re excited about. I thought of that story and I developed a character who’s a waiter and I tried to put my own experience into this character, then adding all the different elements to the story.
It was Athens. [The lake is] about an hour from Athens, called Lake Doxa. It’s a manmade lake… As a matter of fact it was the most difficult thing to find the apartments and the stairs and to be able to work there for 15 days without really distracting the rest of the apartments. This is an abandoned building in the centre of Athens that belongs to the government. My location scouter found it and I was really glad we got the permission to go in and redo the whole thing. I was very happy, privileged to have that. The rest of the locations were in the streets, and all of the exteriors were really carefully chosen after a lot of scouting.
On set design
Actually, it was furniture from friends because we didn’t have the money. So our production designer would just go around different houses and pick stuff. The couch is from my house… Kostas Pappas is a very talented, brilliant production designer and I was very glad to work with him.
On making Athens ‘mythical’
It was very much pre-planned to shoot it that way. We didn’t really want to show Athens, just make it a more generic place. Use Athens but in a way you don’t really recognise it. It wasn’t easy.
On avoiding on-screen technology
That was a very conscious decision. We really planned it with the production designer and the photographer to make a canvas that’s not really defined, to not have technology and go back in time and dress the two apartments like the 70s maybe. I think it served the story much better. I think having technology would have been a distraction to this kind of character study.
I knew Aris the main actor for many years. Funny enough I played a scene with him in one of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films KINETTA, that’s where I met him. Then I followed [his career], watching him at the theatre. When I was writing the script I had him in mind. I thought he’s a great character. As for the rest, I did a casting. I didn’t really work a lot with them, was more or less reading the script and making a general description of the character. Everything was done on set while we were shooting.
That was his ‘thing’… There were a lot of suggestions [in the film], not really saying much. In the script there was more but then I felt that I should take it out and have less, try to make it more mysterious and more of a suggestion rather than make it more of a fact what’s going on between these three, this triangle. To this day I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, if it should have been more explicit or not.
On IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Yes [that was an inspiration for the cinematography] among other films. I should tell you, my background is TV commercials. I have actually directed more than 500 TV commercials in my past. Maybe in a sense I’m influenced by really paying a lot of attention to the frame and to the aesthetics.
On the waiter’s motivation
I think he’s an Albert Camus character where he’s really curious and not feeling the danger, or maybe feeling it but maybe this is something that excites him. Because his life is so boring. I went that way… I think Aris the actor helped a lot in portraying this character as very sincere, making it very real. I think it worked very well even though I was very doubtful when I was shooting it. It was at the end, when I was editing, I felt that worked out really well.
On alternate endings
One ending is that he goes back to the restaurant and says the story to his colleague, the other waiter. The other one is going with the girl, the other one is the one you saw where he… [spoiler removed!]. I felt this one was closer to the character and his ethics, his moral views of life.
THE RADIANT CIRCUS VIEW
THE WAITER is about a character who appears groomed for service. Ironed into the perpetual routine of paraffin-waxed trouser creases, he gets drawn into an intoxicating relationship that has grim consequences.
It’s a calm, almost sedate film where observation of character behaviour and routine are essential to communicating its depths rather than dialogue and drama. This is a curious man who can helpfully freeze the gum off your shoe in a chiller cabinet of cakes but doesn’t appear to have much clue about much else.
The production design and cinematography (Giorgos Karvelas) are gorgeous, creating through carefully studied mid-century chic a microcosmic sense of timelessness amidst an otherwise anonymised, neutralised Athens. There is a danger the film’s slick veneer is more interesting than what’s wrapped inside, but we understand why this carefully controlled and calculatingly moody film won the best director prize at this year’s Raindance.
And that’s the meat of it…
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
The 27th Raindance Film Festival screened at Vue West End & Vue Piccadilly (18 to 29 SEP 2019).
Web raindance.org | Instagram @raindancefilmfestival | Twitter @Raindance
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