Director Profile: Yorgos Lanthimos

Yorgos Lanthimos

In the world of cinema, certain directors stand out for their unique approach to storytelling and their ability to challenge conventional norms. Yorgos Lanthimos is undeniably one of those visionary filmmakers. With a penchant for the bizarre, a fascination for the human psyche, and an unyielding commitment to pushing the boundaries of narrative, Lanthimos has carved a distinct niche in the film industry. In this profile, we delve into his history, genre-defying approach, signature style, recurring themes, and the artistry that defines his filmmaking.

History

Born in Athens, Greece, in 1973, Yorgos Lanthimos embarked on a filmmaking journey that would redefine the art of storytelling. Lanthimos began his career in theatre and commercials before venturing into the world of film. His early works showcased an inclination for unconventional narratives and a penchant for exploring the complexity of human behaviour.

Genres

Lanthimos is known for his genre-defying approach, refusing to be confined by traditional labels. His films seamlessly blend elements of drama, dark comedy, psychological thriller, and surrealism. This genre-bending allows him to craft narratives that are both thought-provoking and unconventional. Lanthimos challenges audiences to relinquish preconceived notions of genre and embrace a cinematic experience that is as unsettling as it is captivating.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Style

Lanthimos’s style is marked by its ability to evoke discomfort while examining the mundane aspects of human existence. His films often present bizarre scenarios within familiar settings, forcing audiences to question societal norms and the intricacies of human interactions. This combination of the absurd and the recognisable creates a disorienting yet compelling viewing experience.

The Killing of A Sacred Deer - Yorgos Lanthimos - Greek Weird Wave
The Killing of A Sacred Deer / Credit: Sacred Deer Limited

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Themes

At the heart of Lanthimos’s films lies a fascination with the complexity of human behaviour. His narratives often delve into the darkest corners of human nature, exploring themes of power dynamics, control, identity, and the absurdity of social conventions. Whether it’s the unsettling courtship rituals in The Lobster or the chilling exploration of motherhood in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lanthimos unflinchingly peels back layers to reveal the unsettling truths that underlie seemingly ordinary lives.

Filmmaking

Lanthimos’s filmmaking is a meticulous art form that revels in ambiguity and challenges audiences to actively engage with the narrative. His use of stilted dialogue, deadpan performances, and enigmatic symbolism creates an atmosphere that lingers long after the credits roll. Yorgos Lanthimos’s collaboration with cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis resulted in visually striking compositions that added to the overall atmosphere of uncanny discomfort.

Notable Works

Let’s delve deeper into some of his most notable works, each a testament to his unique storytelling approach and thematic exploration.

Dogtooth
Dogtooth - Yorgos Lanthimos
Dogtooth / Credit: Kino International

Yorgos Lanthimos’s breakthrough film Dogtooth serves as an exploration of the manipulation of reality. The story revolves around a family that isolates their children from the outside world, distorting their perception of reality and imposing their own set of rules. Lanthimos’s use of symbolism and stilted dialogue creates an unsettling atmosphere, drawing viewers into a world where control and isolation have chilling consequences. Dogtooth showcases Lanthimos’s ability to analyse the human psychology, and challenge the norms that shape our lives.

The Lobster
The Lobster - Greek New Wave - Yorgos Lanthimos
The Lobster / Credit: A24

The Lobster thrusts audiences into a dystopian world where single individuals must find romantic partners within a strict timeframe or face being transformed into animals. Lanthimos’s signature blend of dark comedy and surrealism transforms the absurd premise into a scathing commentary on societal pressure to conform and the absurdity of modern relationships. Through deadpan performances and a chillingly matter-of-fact tone, Lanthimos invites viewers to question the conventions of love, connection, and individuality.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
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The Killing of A Sacred Deer / Credit: Sacred Deer Limited

This psychological thriller unravels a tale of vengeance and morality as a surgeon becomes entangled in a young boy’s sinister plot. The film’s unnerving tension is heightened by Lanthimos’s use of meticulous framing and an eerie, minimalist score. The Killing of a Sacred Deer explores themes of guilt, sacrifice, and the unpredictable consequences of human choices. By pushing the boundaries of psychological horror, Lanthimos crafts a narrative that lingers in the minds of viewers long after the credits roll.

The Favourite
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The Favourite / Credit: Fox Searchlight

The Favourite marks a departure from Lanthimos’s usual unsettling narratives, as he navigates the intricate power dynamics of Queen Anne’s court in 18th-century England. However, Lanthimos’s unique touch is evident in his portrayal of the tumultuous relationships between the queen and her two cousins. It still has his signature dark humour and exploration of the complexities of human interactions, offering a fresh perspective on historical drama through his distinct lens.

These projects are more than just entertaining films; they are mind-bending experiences that challenge our understanding of reality, human behaviour, and societal norms. His ability to evoke discomfort while dissecting the mundane aspects of life showcases his mastery of storytelling. Lanthimos’s impact extends beyond individual narratives, shaping a legacy that encourages filmmakers and audiences alike to embrace narratives that defy conventions.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s legacy is one of pushing boundaries, challenging norms, and redefining cinematic storytelling. As his filmography continues to captivate and bewilder, Yorgos Lanthimos remains an enigmatic auteur who invites us to question the very fabric of our reality.

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