Rhizome

About this film

It is a tragic part of life that we lose people, loved ones whose loss shatters us and makes us question the meaning of a life alone. Yannis Zafiris’ Rhizome focuses on this aspect of life, the arrival of death and the shattering of existence. An elderly man has only one desire; be close to his late wife once more. Zafiris uses a story of his own childhood about the magical power of pomegranates and structures his film around it. Tending to a pomegranate tree in his garden, the elderly man hopes to trigger the fruit’s magical power, hoping that the fruit will allow him to see his beloved one more time. Biting into a freshly yielded fruit, something magical happens...

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Yannis, in your film you explore the theme of loss, very similar to what is portrait in Simo Ezoubeiri’s film Ladder. But loss is established in Rhizone as a result of death. Where does your interest in this theme come from?

First of all, I would like to thank you for this interview and the selection of my short film. I’m very happy about that.

I have recently watched Simo Ezoubeiri’s short film, Ladder, and I find it very sentimental, considering its frames and its slow rhythm. I can relate to its concept and I can see myself resemblances to Rhizome. I really enjoyed it and I could say that it brings to mind some of my favourite directors. Rhizome consists of three basic themes: loss, loneliness, and, of course, love. The main idea crossed my mind after I met an old lady that had recently lost her husband, after sixty years of marriage. She didn’t know how it felt to live on her own. She had to deal with loss and loneliness in everyday life, so she tried to keep herself busy during the day in order not to think too much about the death of her beloved husband. This was something that moved me personally and artistically. During the same time, I used to study Traditional Mediterranean music and its poetic lyrics, full of symbolism. Those two events combined inspired Rhizome.

The film tells the story of a man who wants to be close to his wife again. Interestingly, this does seem to happen once he has eaten a pomegranate from the garden. There is this idea of sensual memory perhaps that brings them back together.

The pomegranate is a fruit that is connected to several meanings ever since the ancient times in many traditions worldwide. In Greece, it is a symbol of good luck, immortality and eternity. My grandparents specifically used to tell me stories about the magical nature of this fruit that as a child considered them to be true (!). Having in mind that my main character is about the same age as them, I thought that he could believe in some of these superstitions.

The main character of the film makes a final vain effort to feel close to his late wife by taking care of a pomegranate tree. Eating this fruit is what finally brings him what he desires the most, feeling her presence and finding the strength to move on.

How did you approach the making of the film? Did you have a script. I can imagine that you were considerably flexible on set.

I tend to think of the directional approach while I’m writing the script. Most of the times, I’m using a shooting script instead of the original one on the set. I’m not usually flexible during the shooting when it comes to my directional approach. I prefer to be well prepared before filming and to already have a main idea of what my frames will be. This is a very important step for me, because I’m trying to give specific meanings and symbolisms through each frame.

I would like to know a bit more about the character. He seems to natural, living his role instead of acting.

With the actor of the film we tried to do exactly what you have mentioned. We were discussing about the film character for months and we analysed the concept thoroughly. We actually started practical rehearsals the day before shooting, in order to avoid usual acting manners. I wanted him to appear as natural as possible, according to what we have previously discussed. I prefer this method of working with the actors and I like to consider them as co-creators, instead of just “players”.

Rhizone isn’t the only film in which you use an aesthetic of contemplation in order to tell a story. What does contemplation bring to your film, your storytelling? Is it a form of film you have consciously decided to go for, or did it come naturally while shooting?

I like a lot this observation! Contemplation is an element that comes unconsciously when I first start thinking about the characters of any project. Every character should understand completely their actions, so contemplation comes naturally as a result. The characters realise their human and mortal nature.

You are currently working on a new film, Visit. Can you tell us a little bit more about it and when will it be finished?

We finished filming “Visit” last spring and all stages of the post-production are complete at the moment. Come September, the film will start its journey through festivals. It’s a simple and more poetic film that has to do once more with loss, memory, remembrance and the vain effort of a human being to stand against their human, mortal nature.

Thank you very much for this interview.

Thank you very much for your interesting and to-the-point questions.