MAGNETIC FIELDS from director Yorgos Goussis, is the official international feature film Oscar entry from Greece for the 95th Academy Awards. MAGNETIC FIELDS is a tender, humorous road movie about two charismatic but lonely people who meet by chance. Their spontaneous need to connect delays their separation and a return to their everyday lives. The film is a nod towards the classic Claude Lelouch’s “Un Homme et Une Femme” and Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise”.
Director writer Yorgos Goussis shot MAGNETIC FIELDS, his debut film, with a MiniDV camcorder and is known primarily for his work as a comic book creator. Goussis’ vision was to make a film in collaboration with his actors, with whom he wrote the screenplay, relying heavily on improvisation, personal experience and the emotions of the small cast and crew of eight people involved in the filming process.
MAGNETIC FIELDS debuted at the 62nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival in 2021 where the film swept the awards. The director won the newly-founded Golden Alexander – Film Forward award for “narrating the adventure of an encounter through adventure filmmaking in free flowing and humanistic way”; the FIPRESCI Award for the Greek film section of the Festival; the award of the Greek Association of Film Critics (ΠΕΚΚ), for making a road movie where “the ride is an analogy for the course of life, with the hope for a miracle lying at the end”; the first prize of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) awards; and the award given by the Greek Film Centre to first-time directors, for his “tender road movie where the weaknesses of the heroes bring them face to face with their need for a new direction in life”
The following is our interview with Yorgos Goussis about making of the MAGNETIC FIELDS:
Cinema Without Borders: “MAGNETIC FIELDS” is a rather poetic film, how challenging was it to interpret your vision into the language of cinema?
Jorgos Goussis: As Ingmar Bergman once said “director is someone that has no time to think artistically because he has many many problems to solve first” and this is very accurate to our example. As a low budget film, the most challenging thing was to actually make the movie and overcome all the practical problems. The artistic choices and the atmosphere of the film is a mixture of my narrative style as a comic book creator and the aesthetics of the whole team of the eight people that create Magnetic Fields.
CWB – Audiences could one way or another identify themselves with the characters in “MAGNETIC FIELDS”. Did you draw from any personal experience in your own life in making this film?
JG: The only thing that seems related to my personal life is that the female character suddenly stops her dancing career and she is searching for something new. I was a cartoonist and suddenly changed into directing films. But this was not in my intentions as we were writing the story, i understood it later. Also, judging Magnetic Fields by the result, I come to the conclusion that it is a film exploring the power of togetherness. Taking that into consideration, it’s hard not to think that the period we’re going through back then, the quarantine, hasn’t affected the film. Especially since we’re talking about a film which relied heavily on improvisation, drawing on personal experience and on the emotion of the eight people involved in the filming process. We were all traveling, eating and living together round the clock, and as a result we felt free again and came face to face with our feelings. The big question on the set was whether what we were feeling there, during those days, would find its way into the film. The viewers answered this question positively, and we are very happy about that. We gained a lot from this filmmaking experience ourselves, and we are very happy that we were able to give it back to the audience.
CWB – The performances in your film are amazing, how did you go about casting and working with your actors?
JG: Antonis (Tsiotsiopoulos) and I have been friends for some time now, and I always wanted to work with him at some point, because we have common tastes and he is a caring and giving person in his collaborations. He is also a screenwriter and playwright, so I knew that his imagination and experience in that area would bring a lot to this film and to the way we wanted to go about it. Elena (Topalidou) and I met in the summer of 2020 when we did a music video together and we felt there was something there, something that made us promise each other to make a movie together. Antonis and Elena had worked together before and had fond memories from that. There is no way they wouldn’t be credited in the script, since the characters were created through improvisation and discussions with them. On the other hand, this film is also their own, just as it would have been even if they weren’t credited or if they had worked with already written dialogues. Everything in a film is a team effort. It’s mostly about the outcome of the convergence of a team, rather than the coexistence of many individuals each doing a good job on their own.
CWB – How did you decide about the visual style of the film?
JG: First of all was the very unique aesthetic result that the miniDV camera has, which we thought would give an impressionistic drawing essence that fits with our story and a nostalgic mood that is very suitable to the road films. Secondly, was the budget restrictions we had and the guerilla way we wanted to film this movie. For example, the MiniDV camera has a huge range of lenses that you can switch using a simple zoom button, while in the movie camera we would have to rent, carry and constantly swap lenses just to see which shot works best for us. That alone saved us time, money and effort. Also, movie cameras require a larger crew who can operate them and carry them around. Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that it is a cheap home video camera and nothing guarantees it won’t malfunction or just stop recording. We lost quite a bit of footage, even a whole day’s worth of shooting, because nothing was recorded on the tape due to issues with the humidity. It’s all part of the game.
CWB – What do you consider your strongest attribute as a director?
JG: For me, the three things a director should be good at is, making decisions, the observation of human nature and to create communities and creative spaces, where he will inspire his colleagues and actors to work and take the best out of them. Every day, I am trying to improve those three skills.
CWB – How do you feel about being chosen to represent Greece at the Oscars?
JG: Very honored and happy. It was never our intention when we were making this film and we never dreamt about that but it is very unique and courageous as a gesture, when the whole community of Greek cinema and the ministry of culture votes for that kind of film to represent them at such a competition. I wish to make them proud.
CWB – How has “MAGNETIC FIELDS” been received by film critics and audiences so far?
JG: We are very pleased that film festivals and the Greek Film Academy honoured us with many awards such as Best Film, Best Script, Best New Director, Best Female Performance etc. but, the huge surprise for us was the critics and of course the audience at the theaters that made us the film of the year in Greece, which is strange and unique for a low budget film. We didn’t think it would be successful at the box office. We were playing at Greek cinemas for 17 weeks, the whole summer and the audience pleased us with hugs and very kind and warm words at the Q&A’s after the screenings. We owe them a huge “thank you” for all this experience.