Yorgos Lanthimos: A Greek Filmmaker Extraordinaire

Yorgos Lanthimos Depositphotos
Molly Se-kyung
Molly Se-kyung

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has become a prominent figure in the world of cinema, known for his unique storytelling style and thought-provoking films. With a focus on psychological thrillers, black comedies, and horror films, Lanthimos has captivated audiences and critics alike with his distinct vision. In this article, we will explore the life, career, and artistic style of Yorgos Lanthimos, shedding light on his rise to prominence and the acclaim he has received for his works.

Early Life and Education

Yorgos Lanthimos was born on September 23, 1973, in Pangrati, Athens. Raised primarily by his mother, Eirini, who owned a shop, Lanthimos had a unique upbringing. His father, Antonis Lanthimos, was a professional basketball player for Pagrati B.C. and the Greek national basketball team. Antonis also served as a basketball instructor at the Moraitis School.

After completing his education at the Moraitis School, Lanthimos initially pursued studies in Business Administration while also playing basketball for Pagrati B.C. However, he eventually decided to follow his passion for filmmaking and enrolled in the Hellenic Cinema and Television School Stavrakos (HCTSS) in Athens, where he studied Directing for Film and Television.

Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthimos Depositphotos

Rise to Prominence: 1995-2014

Lanthimos’ journey to prominence began in the 1990s when he directed a series of videos for Greek dance-theater companies. Since then, he has explored various mediums, directing TV commercials, music videos, short films, and experimental theater plays. He was also part of the creative team that designed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Lanthimos made his feature film debut in 2001 with “My Best Friend,” which he co-directed with Lakis Lazopoulos. The film marked the beginning of his exploration into the surreal and unconventional. In 2005, Lanthimos premiered “Kinetta” at the Toronto Film Festival, further establishing his unique style and garnering attention from international audiences.

However, it was his third feature film, “Dogtooth,” released in 2009, that truly propelled Lanthimos into the spotlight. The film, a Greek psychological drama, won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim for its audacity and originality. It was even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Lanthimos continued to push boundaries with his fourth feature film, “Alps,” which won the Osella Award for Best Screenplay at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in 2011. The film delved into themes of identity and impersonation, showcasing Lanthimos’ ability to create thought-provoking narratives.

Breakthrough and Acclaim: 2015-Present

In 2015, Yorgos Lanthimos made a transition to higher-budget English-language films, produced in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States. His first English-language film, “The Lobster,” premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and received widespread critical acclaim. Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly, the film explored themes of love, relationships, and societal norms in a dystopian world. Lanthimos’ writing for “The Lobster” won the ARTE International Award for Best CineMart Project at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Lanthimos further solidified his reputation as a master filmmaker with “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” in 2017. This psychological horror film, starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or. The film received critical acclaim, with Mark Kermode of The Guardian comparing it to the works of Michael Haneke and describing it as a chilling exploration of guilt and punishment.

However, it was Lanthimos’ 2018 film, “The Favourite,” that garnered the most attention and acclaim. A period black comedy set in the court of Queen Anne during the early 1700s, the film starred Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz. “The Favourite” received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Lanthimos. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 75th Venice Film Festival and solidified Lanthimos’ position as one of the most talented and innovative filmmakers of his generation.

Style and Themes

Yorgos Lanthimos is known for his distinct style of filmmaking, characterized by stilted speech, deadpan acting, and framed cinematography. His films often explore dark and unconventional themes, challenging societal norms and expectations. Lanthimos’ works frequently delve into the complexities of human relationships, the fragility of identity, and the consequences of societal pressures. His films have a surreal quality, blurring the lines between reality and fiction, and leaving audiences with lingering questions and a sense of unease.

Personal Life and Awards

In his personal life, Yorgos Lanthimos has been married to Greek-French actress Ariane Labed since 2013. Their partnership extends beyond personal life, with Labed appearing in several of Lanthimos’ films.

Lanthimos’ unique vision and storytelling ability have earned him numerous accolades throughout his career. His films have received multiple nominations and awards, including four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and a BAFTA Award. Lanthimos has also been recognized by the Academy Awards, receiving nominations for Best Original Screenplay for “The Lobster” and Best Director and Best Picture for “The Favourite.”

Filmography and Future Projects

Yorgos Lanthimos’ filmography is a testament to his versatility and creative prowess. From his early Greek-language films like “Dogtooth” and “Alps” to his English-language breakthroughs with “The Lobster” and “The Favourite,” Lanthimos has consistently pushed boundaries and challenged conventions.

In addition to his feature films, Lanthimos has also directed a number of short films and has been involved in theater productions. His filmography showcases his ability to navigate different mediums and explore various storytelling techniques.

Looking ahead, Yorgos Lanthimos continues to captivate audiences with his upcoming projects. His film “Poor Things” premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Golden Lion. The film stars Emma Stone, further solidifying the creative partnership between Lanthimos and the talented actress. Additionally, Lanthimos has been reported to be working on an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel “Pop. 1280,” further showcasing his commitment to exploring unconventional narratives and captivating audiences with his distinct storytelling style.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ journey from a Greek filmmaker to an internationally acclaimed director is a testament to his unique vision and storytelling ability. Through his exploration of psychological thrillers, black comedies, and horror films, Lanthimos has carved a niche for himself in the world of cinema. His distinct style, thought-provoking narratives, and willingness to challenge conventions have made him one of the most exciting and innovative directors of our time. As audiences eagerly anticipate his future projects, Yorgos Lanthimos continues to push boundaries, captivate audiences, and redefine the possibilities of contemporary filmmaking.

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By Molly Se-kyung Editor
Molly Se-kyung is a novelist and film and television critic. She is also in charge of the style sections.
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