Emma Stone finds relief in grim Greek silent film

For Emma Stone, acting in ‘Bleat’, a Greek silent film with surreal and disturbing scenes of sex, death and resurrection, was a professional challenge and a breath of fresh air. Playing a young widow in the 30-minute black-and-white film, Stone said she welcomed Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos to the limited-release project set on the Greek island of Tinos and featuring goats roaming the rock-and-thorn landscape. †

“What I like about Yorgos would take me a long time to answer,” Stone said on Thursday after a screening for the news media in Athens and on the eve of the Greek National Opera premiere.

“In short, I will say that it is very rare that you meet someone you get along so well with, but also artistically (provides) the ability as an actor to surrender yourself and not worry about every little move that you make.”

After winning an Academy Award for Best Actress in “La La Land” in 2017, Stone worked with Lanthimos in “The Favorite” and earned an Oscar nomination two years later as a Supporting Actress.

They remained friends and Stone agreed to waive her fee and participate in ‘Bleat’ – shot with traditional movie cameras and presented with a live 36-piece orchestra and choir that follows the story with a shocking and funeral score.

The film opens in a traditional whitewashed house at a wake. There are long portraits of Stone and elderly mourners sitting in a room next to her late husband, played by French actor Damien Bonnard, shrouded in a white shroud.

After the guests leave, Stone has a moment of ecstasy with his body, which sees him come back to life for several hours as she loses consciousness and appears to die.

As the goats watch, the man promptly buries Stone and dances on her grave, before turning the tables again and finally, with Stone reappearing as he goes to bed and drifting back to death.

“Bleat” was recorded on Tinos, which is famous for its whitewashed houses, in early 2020, just before the pandemic caused lockdown in Greece and across Europe, and Stone described the experience as a welcome change.

“What’s the point of continuing with this kind of – no offense – stupid acting if you don’t keep pushing and being challenged?” she said. “I think that goes for life too.”

The film will be screened to the public for three days this week at the National Opera in Athens, while Lanthimos and his collaborators said it could be made available for limited release in other countries at a later date.

“It was important to have this projected from a traditional 35mm print and incorporate live music into it so I always had that in mind,” Lanthimos said. “It’s not just something someone would, you know, look at on their laptop or on their phone.”

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