Cinema's prince of darkness
Alkinos Tsilimidos' latest offering Blind Company premiers at the Melbourne International Film Festival and is one of his most profound works.
Alkinos Tsilimidos' films are connected by a parade of broken-down characters that inhabit the shadows of our society and test the boundaries of acceptability.
"I'm interested in people who have given up on the world," he says.
Characters like the contract killer in Everynight ... Everynight, the middle class man falling into the abyss in Tom White, or the two love-struck junkies robbing milk-bars in Em4Jay. Tsilimidos' latest contribution to the altar of desolation noir Blind Company, will premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It is a menacing drama about a dying man, and the human and emotional debris he leaves in his wake.
In Blind Company, Geoff Brewster, played by Colin Friels who is a regular in his films, is seeing out his final days at the family's isolated Tasmanian coastal shack.
Brewster is recording confessions for his estranged wife, but when his nephew Josh arrives, unannounced a hazardous game begins threatening to destroy both men.
I first met the tall and regal looking Alkinos Tsilimidos 15 years ago in a South Melbourne coffee-house. He had just completed Everynight ... Everynight, a film about contract killer Christopher Dale Flannery's days in Melbourne's Pentridge prison's notorious H Division.
It was the toughest noir realist film ever made in Australia. Tsilimidos' contribution was for me a sharp burst in an otherwise anodyne Australian cinema culture based on making quirky effete films.
He was what Christos Tsiolkas was; an antidote to the weedy and boring literary world of Australia. When quizzed on the difference and connectedness of his films Tsilimidos asks rhetorically, "All of them are completely different films, but then again are they? The characters in my films may be in different pockets but, without realising in Blind Company, you are in a world where people are trapped in their own doom." Tsilimidos' characters seem to plunge onto their swords, as if like in Euripidean tradition they are bound by fate.
As Tsilimidos says, "I feel that there is an unsentimental recognition that there is a form of Aristotelian catharsis in all my work, but not a comfortable one." His relationship with film distributors is founded on that discomforting catharsis, "That is why I have a taciturn relationship with distributors and the like because they know I don't play in that area or comfortable resolutions."
Tsilimidos adds, "The difficulty I have is that distributors accept that they will get a strong film but they are terrified how audiences will cope. My films are not shocking in that evident way, but they do stick around."
The post distribution sale of his DVDs and the almost cult status his films take on for those seeking a more real vision of Australia, is a great example of how his work "sticks around."
Tsilimidos' films always find audiences but as he points out, "I am more interested in trying to articulate, through story-telling what it is like to be these people in my films." He adds, "All these people exist in some form; I get the cast to discover what these people are like in the real world."
He also insists on his actors looking for these people in the real world, forcing his actors not to indicate emotion but to feel the emotion. "You can have a consummate actor to use all the tricks he or she can possibly to articulate or indicate to the audience what he is feeling.
But that is not what I want. I can tell when it's not real." He is also older, "I know now more about how people authentically react to situations; I know more as an observer of human conditions." But one thing that has not changed for Alkinos Tsilimidos is lack of ambition, "I am not ambitious when it comes to working.
I just want to make films." Maintaining his ardour for looking into the soul's darker crevices and history's less palatable truths, he is planning a period film about an Australian bounty hunter who abducts and keeps an Aboriginal woman as a concubine.
He is keen to make the story of Medea in a reverse way, about an estranged man who kills his child to get back at his wife."
The reality of his work is in sharp relief to the advertorial premise of films like the overblown and poorly received Australia.
It may in fact be too close, as news reports just come on about another aggrieved man in NSW killing his children in a family disput.
Blind Company will premiere in the Melbourne International Film Fetsival www.melbournefilmfestival.com
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