It’s no surprise that his previous films were screened at the most prestigious festivals all over the world, from Cannes all the way to Venice, gaining awards and triggering a sweet sense of anticipation for his latest film

Michalis Konstantatos

Stories of our times

Text: Tassos Retzios | Photographs: Michalis Konstantatos' Archive
Michalis Konstantatos

Quite a few people would bet on a future career by Michalis Konstantatos ever since his short films, some years ago, while his work in the field of theatre secured him a spot in the limelight of attention. Therefore, it’s no surprise that his previous films were screened at the most prestigious festivals all over the world, from Cannes all the way to Venice, gaining awards and triggering a sweet sense of anticipation for his latest film, All the Pretty Little Horses (Luton was his debut feature, following his two shorts, Only Forever and Two Times Now). All the Pretty Little Horses celebrated its world premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival and went on to take part in the prestigious completion section of the 26th Sarajevo Film Festival. Subsequently, it traveled to Belgium (Film Fest Gent), Israel (Haifa Film Fest), Poland (Warsaw Film Festival) and Canada (Calgary International Film Festival).

No surprise either for the film’s selection for the 61st TIFF’s “Meet the Neighbors” competition section. All the Pretty Little Horses revolves around a couple that had set up their common life inside a bubble of prosperity, a few years ago, and once this bubble burst, they found themselves deprived of their financial comfort, of their social status, of their professional attribute, and subsequently of their identity. “They found themselves at a loss regarding their true role as individuals, as parents, as a couple,” explains Michalis Konstantatos. “The inspiration for my movie was drawn from Greece’s profound financial crisis, which brought about radical changes, not only economy-wise, but also in terms of social structures and interpersonal relations.”

Through the “journey” they embark on, the film’s characters “finally recapture their sense of companionship that can still be ‘awakened’ between two people, even in times when human behavior is more and more susceptible to cruelty and individualism.” The movie focuses on this very moment that follows a financial overturn. What does it mean and what it feels like to lose your social identity? How do we cope with such a violent change? And what impact does it have on a man’s soul?

In the movie, I intend to place emphasis on the characters’ disposition and observe the way their relationship and behavior are reshaped within such an entourage. The lack of contact within this context tends to grow out of proportion. People talk to each other sincerely less and less, as their thoughts and speculations become more real than reality itself. My movie’s characters are stripped away while standing opposite to each other, striving to hide from one an another and hide the truth by failing to admit it. And that’s where the problem starts. When we chose to hide ourselves inside the gap we create between us and our closest people,” explains Michalis Konstantatos.

It’s not just the films, though. Alongside Yota Argyropoulou (the lead protagonist in All the Pretty Little Horses), he has been an active member of the Blindspot Theatre Group for over a decade now, with performances that have become the talk of the town in Athens’ theatrical stage scene. This ride between cinema and theater, how can it be defined? “The question as to why I’m making films seems to have no answer. I suppose in my book it’s rather self-evident. I prefer to express my thoughts through frames and the stories of other people. I take delight in thoroughly and meticulously observing people and cinema offers me the chance to reenact their behavior and relationships through my characters, as I record and analyze them. To me cinema is the best and most sincere way to express myself and communicate with the people around me. Theater is something that sprang out of my need to set up sceneries and dress them with stories. Theater is a whole different story; the way I see it it’s a means to keep me on my toes and in contact with the actors and their world,” Konstantinos points out.

Under normal conditions, at this time of year, the Greek director would be attending international festival along with his film, but “the time of pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. The financial repercussions will be tremendous and many people will find themselves on the ropes. Survival will become an issue and state authorities in all countries should for once truly make people their priority. I fear that the psychological impact, bound to become evident soon enough, will be mountainous as well, leaving us with no choice but to stand by one another, with a profound sense of empathy.”

As to what is the proper stance of an artist, he goes on to say: “We’re used to thinking that artists make use of any sort of crisis, always finding the way not only to create, but to create a work that is deemed more valuable given the hard circumstances. Despite a certain extent of truth found in this reasoning, I would like to stress out that artists are working people as well, who are in need of either a well-balanced working environment or a solid support from public institutions. And unfortunately, we are in a predicament where the absence of the latter might trigger a devastating crisis for the art world.”