Hamlet’s staging by Yannis Houvardas.
I had already made a portrait of Yannis Houvardas for “Paraskinio”, in 2009 and I had filmed him rehearsing on two additional occasions, for documentaries about Amalia Moutoussi and Stefania Goulioti respectively.
But this familiarity did not help at all.
When Hamlet’s rehearsals were about to begin, in October 2014, Yannis was explicit about not wanting a camera around. He asked me to start filming on the day the team would finally settle at the Onassis Cultural Center, namely on 2 January 2015.
And that was exactly what happened. Therefore, we were never given the chance to chronicle how the work developed from the beginning, but only during the last fifteen days.
When we started, there was so much tension, one could cut through it with a knife. Stress levels were running high.
Apostolia and I had to work in unprecedented and difficult conditions. We were told we had to film from the stalls and never go on stage.
Yannis would not put on a lapel mic, so that we could record whatever he was saying clearly and for the first few days, our communication took place through his wife, Alkistis, who was playing Ophelia.
The stakes were high. Hamlet. A Hamlet, all theatre lovers in Athens had been waiting for, and featuring a first-class cast; Christos Loulis, in the title role, Amalia Moutoussi as Gertrud, and among others, Nikos Hatzopoulos, Giorgos Gallos, Haris Frangoulis and Orfeas Avgoustidis.
In the first few days, the distance between the stalls and the stage did not allow us to become more familiar with the members of the ensemble and everything had become very difficult.
On top of that, on the first day of shooting, one of the cameras fell to the ground and the lens broke!
We rented another one and carried on.
After the fifth day, things started to get better.
We were filming intensively. And we were entirely inconspicuous.
At the same time, as filming progressed, apart from the rehearsals themselves, we shot interviews of the actors, in order to capture their frame of mind during rehearsals, in other words how they were feeling at the time, as well as what their approach to the play and the production was.
At some point, Yannis, who had started to get more relaxed, was interviewed as well.
Yannis’ method is entirely different to that of Karathanos or Marmarinos. Yannis is more cerebral rather than emotional; everything is in his head (that is where the film’s title comes from).
It feels like he holds invisible threads that direct the movements of everyone. He has absolute control. But when there is good improvisation, befitting his style, he knows how to incorporate it.
We filmed everything even the opening night. I think that the best part of the film is the last thirty minutes, when we shot on two cameras; Apostolia filmed the performance, while I was backstage recording everything that was going on off stage. Many exciting things were going on. Actors were coming and going, talking on camera while I was recording their tension, their, anxiety, their nervousness and their relief.
The audience were given the chance to get to see the action on stage intercut with the action backstage.
I believe that despite all the great difficulties that there were, the end result was a very good film. And a powerful record.
Yannis was very happy with the film. He sincerely liked it and apologized for all the trouble he had put us to.