Queen and Country

Yorgos Lanthimos is the Greek filmmaker behind such acclaimed and award-winning films as Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. He returns with The Favourite, an eccentric historical drama focusing on the triangular relationship between Britain’s Queen Anne and two female courtiers. Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, the film has already been nominated for five Golden Globes.  

ASFF: What intrigued you about this Queen Anne-set story?
I was interested just because of the story initially. It’s a historical film in the sense that it’s inspired by history and real people but I hope it is obvious that we tried to create our own little universe inspired by that, and we weren’t very loyal to what actually happened or even aspects of the period.

ASFF: How did you set about this mandate?
YL: We made a very early decision to keep whatever’s interesting from this story but then do also whatever we felt was necessary or interesting in order to tell a story that feels contemporary. So we used contemporary language and other aspects that add contemporary texture to the film. We made costumes that maintained the shape of costumes of the era, but used contemporary fabrics. Also, the way that people behave, or dance, is definitely not loyal to the period.

ASFF: Did you set out to make a very pro-female film, with three complex female leads?
YL: The way to do justice to women, especially if you’re a male filmmaker, is to show them as human beings, as anyone else. The same way you would approach a story as with male protagonists, to show there is no difference. There can be a story with women in power that are manipulative, crazy, loving, sensitive, whatever. They’re human beings and they can behave as badly or amazingly as anyone else. They’re capable of anything, like anyone else. That’s the positive aspect about making a film with three women as protagonists, but it’s not designed to say something about the place of women in society today. Still, it’s a gesture without even intending to be one from the beginning.

ASFF: What were your big influences here? All About Eve seems key…
YL: Very early on, we were referencing All About Eve but also Joseph Losey’s The Servant as inspiration. But there’s also a play by an English writer that I really love – Phaedra’s Love by Sarah Kane – which is a re-writing of a Greek tragedy, Hippolytus, which has a very particular tone; it’s very humorous but gets very dark. There were things that we talked about in order to define the tone of this film.

ASFF: You started your career making films in Greece. Will you return to make films there?
I don’t know. I take one thing at a time. If it happens that I come across an interesting idea, film or material, that I think should be done in the Greek language or in a Greek place, I would gladly do that. Obviously logistically it makes more sense for me to do English-language films, because I can put them together and in Greece it’s quite difficult and very limited. But if it was something that I really loved and I wanted to do, I would try and find a way to do it.

The Favourite opens in cinemas on 1 January. For more details, visit: www.foxsearchlight.com.

1. Stills from
The Favourite.