Dead Europe, an Aussie film featured at TIFF, brings us not only to the dark underbelly of Athens, Paris and Budapest, but also closer inside the novel of gay Greek Orthodox author Christos Tsiolkas. Director Tony Krawitz and lead actor Ewen Leslie sat down for a Fab briefer.
Brian Bantugan: What drew you to this project?
Krawitz: It’s based on a book by Christos Tsiolkas. It was really unsettling. It was about the sins of the past, guilt and secrets.
What do you like about your adaptation?
Krawitz: The film is quite different from the book. When people like the film, they can read the book. It’s not like Harry Potter.
What should people know about the book before they watch the film?
Krawitz: The film goes to very dark places, but it goes there with a very big heart.
What interesting parts of the novel didn’t make it to the screenplay?
Krawitz: It was about three generations. We just focused on the contemporary story. In the book Isaac has a boyfriend, Colin. As he is travelling, Isaac is having sex with other men, but he’s feeling bad about that. But the film is a bit of a roller coaster about his psychological descent, so having a character in another continent wouldn’t have helped as much dramatically.
What did you like about the film’s treatment of the gay lead?
Leslie: I like that it’s not like we have to establish quickly that he’s gay. It’s only when he goes off with that guy in the park that the audience will realize he’s gay. It was just part of the character and that’s that.
How did you tap into the psyche of gay photographer Isaac?
Leslie: One of the first things that Tony told me when I was cast was that “I am going throw you at the deep end as much as possible, and you can play the role through all of that.”
How did you approach the explicit scenes?
Krawitz: I tried to deal with those things more psychologically and not be exploitative. It’s more interesting psychologically to have a scene that looks like it’s going to be exploitative and hope that the audience in their minds are going, “Oh no, please, don’t let this happen” -- but that actually doesn’t happen. Then there’s the ethics. Not to give too much away to people who haven’t seen the film, but it deals, in one stage of the film, with young teenagers being sold into sex slavery.
How did you work around the issues of anti-Semitism and shady homosexuality in the film?
Krawitz: I thought my responsibility in those areas is to be true to Christos’s ethos. People have commented often when there’s a gay character in a film their sexuality is part of the problem. The sexuality is dramatized. What I really liked about the book is that his sexuality is just a part of him, and his sexuality is not an issue.
Cate Blanchett raved about the diversity of the work that you can do.
Leslie: I’d like to try and play as many different kinds of films with as many different filmmakers as possible.
Would you play a woman?
Leslie: Maybe I can play Cate Blanchett.
Dead Europe screens Sun, Sept 9 at noon at the Cineplex Yonge and Dundas 2, and on Sat, Sept 15 at 6pm at Scotiabank 3.