For Emma Stone, acting in “Bleat,” a Greek silent movie with surreal and disturbing scenes of sex, death, and resurrection, was a professional challenge and a relief. Playing a young widow in the 30-minute, black-and-white film, Stone said she welcomed rejoining Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos for the limited-release project set on the Greek island of Tinos and featuring goats roaming its rock-and-thorn landscape.
“What I like about Yorgos would take me a very long time to answer,” Stone said Thursday after a screening for the news media in Athens, and on the eve of the premiere at the Greek National Opera.
“In short I’ll say it’s very rare that you meet somebody who you get along with so well but on top of that artistically (provides) the ability as an actor want to give yourself over to something and not have to worry about every small move you make.”
After winning an Academy Award for best actress in “La La Land” in 2017, Stone worked with Lanthimos in the “The Favourite,” and earned an Oscar nomination as an actress in a supporting role two years later.
They remained friends and Stone agreed to waive her fee and participate in ‘Bleat’ ‒ shot using traditional film cameras and presented with a live 36-member orchestra and choir that follows the story with a jarring and funereal score.
The movie opens in a traditional, whitewashed home at a wake. There are long portrait shots of Stone and elderly mourners sitting in a room next to her dead husband, played by French actor Damien Bonnard, covered in a white shroud.
After the guests leave, Stone has a moment of ecstasy with his body, bringing him back to life for several hours as she loses consciousness and appears to die.
With goats looking on, the man promptly buries Stone and dances on her grave, before the roles are again and finally reversed, with Stone reappearing as he goes to bed and drifts back to death.
“Bleat” was shot in early 2020 on Tinos that’s famous for its whitewashed homes just before the pandemic triggered lockdowns in Greece and across Europe, and Stone described the experience as a welcome change.
“What is the point continuing to give in this kind of ‒ no offence ‒ stupid job of acting if you’re not gonna keep pushing and being challenged?” she said. “I guess that’s also true of life.”
The film will screened to the public for three days this week at the national opera in Athens, while Lanthimos and his associates said it could later be made available for limited release in other countries.
“It was important to have this projected from a traditional 35 millimeter print and incorporate live music, so that always in my mind,” Lanthimos said. “It’s not just something that someone, you know, would watch on their laptop or on their phone.”