Yorgos Lanthimos – Dear God, the Parthenon is still broken

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‘Dear God, the Parthenon is still broken’ is a photographic vignette by Yorgos Lanthimos. Although created on the set of the film ‘Poor Things’ in Budapest, the book inhabits a separate world, untethered from time and place.

The photographs drift between black and white and colour, giving the impression of a waking dream between past and present, whilst multiple layers between reality and fiction are gradually revealed. The film was set in various late 19th century locations including London, Lisbon, Marseille, and a cruise ship—all recreated in Budapest. These constructed cities and interiors provide the backdrop for the photographs. The characters populate these imagined cities whilst the precarious screens, scaffolding, rigs, lighting and crew are divulged on the periphery of the images. Lanthimos has intentionally widened the frame to show the workings of the construct, fabricating a new story within the story. To mirror this, the publication is designed with foldouts to reveal these constructs within the cast of characters—the reader opens a book within a book.

“I always hoped that I would manage to get enough decent pictures to make a book out of them—a body of work that could exist on its own, independent of the film. I didn't know if we had achieved this until we started seeing the initial edits and sequencing of the book.” –Yorgos Lanthimos

In reaction to the fast-moving creation of the film, Lanthimos embraced the opportunity to use a large-format camera to make these images, focusing on stillness, tonality and light. Deciding on a composition and not changing this until the exposure was complete, each picture provided him with a meditative time of focus. The creative process of making the images extended to collaboration with the actress Emma Stone who played the role of Bella Baxter in the film, for which she was awarded an Oscar. Through working together on previous projects, Lanthimos and Stone have developed a unique creative partnership. After a busy day of filming, they would develop the colour 6x7 negatives and the b&w 4x5 sheet film together in a makeshift darkroom in a bathroom. This alchemic act offered them both a creative outlet beyond the realm and constraints of the film.

“I became involved out of both curiosity and friendship. Yorgos has always photographed both on set and in life, but when he got the Chamonix, I was pretty amazed by the large format and the beginning of his learning to process negatives. One day, I asked if I could try to load some negatives in the little tent he had set up, then moved on to the chemicals, and I became obsessed. The high-stakes meditation of it is very special to me — you have to remain in control, you don’t want to screw up the pictures, and sure, they’re only pictures, but they’re his pictures, his art, not my own. It was like getting to be a sous chef, not dissimilar to how I feel with him on set, and I loved the challenge and focus of it.” –Emma Stone

The title of the book ‘Dear God, the Parthenon is still broken’ comes from a postcard that the character of Bella Baxter was to send to her father, God, from Athens. The scene was cut from the final version of the film. The book opens with a previously unpublished poem by Patti Smith, inspired by the film.

Yorgos Lanthimos, was born in Athens, Greece. A versatile creative, in addition to directing dance and music videos, TV commercials, short films, and theatre plays, he has also photographed editorials and fashion campaigns. His breakthrough came with the film ‘Dogtooth’ (2009), earning an Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes and an Oscar nomination. ‘The Lobster’ (2015) won a Jury Prize at Cannes and the European Film Awards. This was followed by ‘The Favourite’ (2018) which earned Olivia Colman an Oscar. His latest film, ‘Poor Things’, won Venice's Golden Lion and four Oscars. ‘Dear God, the Parthenon is still broken’ (Void) is Lanthimos' first photography monograph.

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