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Methodology and Madness: Editing ‘The Favourite’

"Through our many years of collaboration we have developed a very precise method of work," says Yorgos Lanthimos's editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis. "The process is about finding the balance, tone and stylistic preferences."

“Leave it to Yorgos Lanthimos to offer up the most wickedly delicious romance,” writes Bill Desowitz about The Favourite. “He turns the palace of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) into a playground and battlefield, as rival cousins, Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), curry favor by manipulating her affections.

“And the director relied on his go-to editor, Yorgos Mavropsaridis, to navigate the ups and downs of Abigail and Sarah’s power struggle without ever losing sight of the queen’s dominance,” Desowitz continues. “At the same time, Mavropsaridis made the wild shifts in tone seem plausible, given the absurdities and eccentricities that occur in the palace.” To read the full article, click here.

The pair has forged their own distinctive back-and-forth methodology of discovering the structure. “Through our many years of collaboration we have developed a very precise method of work,” says Mavropsaridis. “During our common working experience, I have witnessed the formation of Yorgos’ cinematic language and have grown to know it well. 

“There is a language particular to each film but also one that is common to all of his work. With certain already standardized procedures to be considered during postproduction, we still managed to work using our own method.”

“This is the thing with Yorgos, every film presents its own unique difficulties and challenges,” Mavropsaridis tells Bryan Adams. “He doesn’t like to repeat, but he always has a vision he tries to achieve. We have to find the new language for each film. I don’t want to follow my own patterns of thought, either—I want to find new ways to approach his new vision.” To read the full interview, click here.

The Favourite shares with all of [Lanthimos’s] films a common interest in themes that I call his ‘existential questioning.'” the editor explains to Su Fang Tham. “With this basic tone as the foundation of all his work, he experiments with shades of tonality in each film. 

“In The Favourite you can easily discern this darker tone in counterpoint with a brighter tone, expressed with fast-paced dialogue, fast wipes, but also more self-conscious track-ins and compositions, extreme wide lenses, low-level shots with the actors looming above us, sequence shots and montage sequences with interwoven space and time. As with all Lanthimos’s films, the way he chooses to tell a story lends itself to a very personal conversation with the viewers about his favorite themes.” To read the full interview, click here.

Much of that method is beyond words as both undertake the intensive search for the film’s final form: “During the shooting period I start exploring the material,” Mavropsaridis says, “with the aim of presenting him with an interpretation, a possibility of the many options still to be explored both in terms of the story and of the way of telling of the story.”

Mavropsaridis admits, “Yorgos’ first reaction is inevitably one of despair, but following our method then usually saves us. After his first shock, we start reconstructing the narrative. We take notes and he leaves me to work on these notes, as well as to follow whatever might arise in my long-formed editing synapses.”

“It needs to start conforming to Lanthimos’ language and to his aesthetics values,” the editor tells Jazz Tangcay. “With this, we wanted to do more editing than normal. This is how we approach our editing for rhythm and we wanted to do something different, or sometimes, we don’t like a scene but we need to keep a phrase so we try something different. He’ll give me notes and then I’ll put my own experience into it.

“Sometimes, it’s like being a musician. He gives me direction and I have to perform. So, it’s a matter of skill and creates a new way of presenting the script. For Lanthimos, the way he presents a film is more important that the way he presents the plot.

“To find the right structure, it takes time, it takes numerous attempts. We need to make sure that the way the plot progresses is in his style.” To read the full interview, click here.

“Yorgos supplies me with music and new ideas until we are ready to screen it for friends and family, another procedure that helps us to find our way through this universe of possibilities. After our first screening, we go back again, this deconstructing what we have built so far, experimenting with new ideas and exploring other aesthetic and narrative possibilities,” Mavropsaridis says.

Both Lanthimos and Mavropsaridis know by instinct when the film is approaching its final stages: “There is a very delicate balance between form and content in the ‘Lanthimic’ world,” Mavropsaridis says. “So the process is about finding the balance, tone and stylistic preferences that most accurately communicate his intentions and are most true to his world. Serving this language is the main aim of the edit. 

“Along the way, we find ideas that are innovative, others that are aborted, but we are always thinking about connecting with our imaginary viewer. As an editor I’m deeply interested in how the viewer will experience at the end of this film and what it will communicate.”

I do have this feeling when working with Lanthimos, when I am satisfied aesthetically — and I usually am with his films — of absolute pleasure artistically,” Mavropsaridis tells Beth Marchant. “The way it is done and how the story is told is often the most important thing for me.” To read the full interview, click here.

“All the small bits and pieces of the film have both their rewards and their difficulties,” the editor concludes, “and in a way they are all my favorites.”