Interruption – Venice 72 Orizzonti
With his directorial debut, Yorgos Zois breaks the fourth wall as he is experimenting on how myth and art interrupt actual life. Or is it the other way around?
Yorgos Zois has always been a Venice favourite. His first short film Casus Belli (2010) had its world premiere at the 67th Venice Film Festival. Two years later Greek director returned with his second short Out of Frame (2012) that was awarded with the Best European Short Film prize. His debut feature film Interruption participates in Orizzonti competition section at the 72nd Venice Film Festival.
In a central theatre of Athens, a post-modern adaptation of Aeschylus’ tragedy The Oresteia takes place. After a few moments since the beginning of the play a group of black dressed young people enters the theatre and goes towards the stage. They carry guns and their leader (Alexandros Vardaxoglou) apologizes for the interruption and introduces his group as The Chorus that will guide the audience that night. The leader will ask from some of the spectators to come up to the stage and present a different adaptation of the tragedy, an adaptation where reality and fiction are no more easily discriminated.
The Oresteia narrates the end of the curse on the House of Atreus. As Agamemnon, King of Argos, returns home after spending ten years in Trojan War he gets killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Orestes decides to avenge the death of his father Agamemnon and with the help of his best friend Pylades kills his mother Clytemnestra. After the murder Orestes will be pursued by Furies and by the end of the play he will be brought to trial. The decision won’t be pronounced by a judge but by the people. This is the premise and the backbone where Zois is basing his own story which could work as another more experimental adaptation of The Oresteia. As Aeschylus transferred his tragedy’s finale to the audience, Zois wants to discover where the myth ends and where can actually interfere with life.
According to the director, the inspiration behind Interruption is an actual event that happened in 2002 where a group of armed Chechens took hostage the audience in a Muscovite theatre. At the beginning the spectators thought that this intervention was part of the play. So they didn’t react. For that reason, Zois – who also wrote the screenplay – visualizes this event and as he is “literally” breaking the fourth wall he blends reality with fiction. Through The Chorus leader, he is pushing his heroes – and simultaneously the film’s viewers – to the edges as he is trying to examine how a tragedy could imitate life and vice versa. While these two worlds seem easily distinguishable at the start, as the story evolves it becomes even more difficult to understand where the barriers are. Since the film and the new play move forward everything gets more perplexed and sometimes baffled. The now non-audience becomes the performer and the actual actors observe a different play that could have a completely unattended outcome.
The whole experiment that Zois is exploring with Interruption could be extremely interesting and inspiring. The problematic of why a modern society could exploit or support another Orestes or how he could adapt his actions in today’s standards are some points that could motivate the viewers too. Also this completely alternative and claustrophobic approach to the subject offers another striking point of view. Although, while this initially works great and transfers all the tension to the viewer, the fact that almost the entire film takes place on a stage could feel somehow repetitive and without any possible escapes. There are scenes that help the story to expand and others where everything is obscurely stalled. Screenplay’s wittiness could lose some of its spark when everything imitates an actual play. Certainly the message that Zois wants to transfer it is being communicated but there are moments where this arguably absurd and terrifying situation is depicted in a touch more serious way than it is needed and this could be a hit or miss.
Undoubtedly Interruption is a brave debut feature film as it goes beyond the usual patterns and Zois narrates everything in an original and appealing way on the verges of video art. Despite the dramaturgical weaknesses it is a film that can could evolve after the initial screening and could still pose the same question. Is the art that interrupts actual life or vice versa?