Theodoris Parlas (Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos) is a cheerful optimist, a young man with wide eyes, a big heart and a grand, if somewhat unfocused ambition. He also has a peculiar talent. He is a natural liar. Whenever he finds himself in a tricky situation, the most outrageous and grandiose concoctions pop into his head, then come flying out of his mouth. Screening at this year’s Greek Film Festival, Need for Lies is a lightweight political satire with modest pretensions.
Adapted from a play by Dimitris Psathas, it opens with our protagonist as a boy, telling the most endearing lies to his mother, who despairs at what will become of him. No one wants a liar, she tells him. Well, perhaps not in the small town where he grew up, but in the political circles of metropolitan Athens, lying is almost a prerequisite. Fifteen years later, Theodoris arrives, a young man come to the big smoke and landing smack in the middle of student protests about the IMF.
The government’s in crisis. Next we meet a floundering government minister (played by Ieroklis Mihailides, who also directed the film) with no political experience and little natural ability, newly promoted because he comes from a political family. He is having trouble dealing with the pressures of the job. As he explains to his wife, “you know I can’t lie”. What he needs is a spin-doctor, someone to deal with all the problems.
Guess who? “I’m Theodoris Parlas, the liar.” Then, after a moment’s consideration, he adds, “Why be ashamed, I’m an honest liar.” The two of them begin on the wrong footing (literally), but when Theodoris rescues the minister from some crooked coercion with his lying, they realise that they are, in a way, perfectly suited. From there it becomes a kind of buddy movie, where opposites attract. Theodoris succeeds where the minister’s wife has failed, sprucing him up and teaching him political savvy, all the while piling lie upon lie.
Of course, it all goes wrong, amusingly, that’s the fun part. Set against the backdrop of Greece’s economic turbulence, Need for Lies is essentially a farce; there are choreographed set pieces, rapid about-faces, musical cues and a bit of slapstick for good measure. Sometimes you half expect someone to turn to the camera and wink. Some big scenes have been added in adapting the play to cinema, yet it’s still quite an intimate piece. And while it’s a little uneven at times, and has something of a made-for-TV look about it, it’s bubbly and ebullient, full of fun and good intentions.
The Greek Film Festival screens in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney through October. For more information, go to www.greekfilmfestival.com.au