A life’s work becomes a prison for jazz club owner Stelios when a shady Romanian gangster calls in his debts. The gripping underworld drama, Wednesday 04:45, is a parable on the perils of accumulated debt, and a depiction of the descent of a mostly decent man. Director Alexis Alexiou perfectly balances the complex emotions that drive a man to take the most drastic measures available.
Stelios is the owner of a Jazz club in Athens. A few years ago, with the help of his former associate Vassos, Stelios received a business loan from the Romanian in order to renovate his club. In 2010, the recessions hits leaving Stelios on the brink of bankruptcy and unable to repay the loan. The Romanian meets with Stelios and gives him one day to come up with a solution. Trying to buy some goodwill for his old friend, Vassos asks Stelios to meet with Omer, an Albanian strip-club owner who also owes money to the Romanian. Omer and Stelios’ lives will soon cross paths in the most unexpected of ways. In a vortex of adultery, drug abuse, violence, guilt, and self-deception, Stelios has only a few hours left to save his club, salvage his crumbling marriage, battle the mafia loan sharks, baptize his employees kid, and make it to his son’s school for an important meeting.
At the Tribeca Film Festival 2015 we caught up with the film director Alexis Alexiou to talk about the unique style genre choices, the fictional storytelling within the European financial crises reality and the journey of the filmmaker from a degree in Physics to directing films.
To find more information on ‘Wednesday 04:45’ at the TFF 2015 – HERE
What inspired you to write Wednesday 04:45?
I wanted to make a genre and a crime film. I love these kinds of films. Greek cinema doesn’t really offer this genre. When I started writing the screenplay there was so much going on in Greece (and still is); I wanted to make a political film. When something so extreme is happening, you have to put that in the film. This specific genre allows it. It’s connected to the socio-economic status quo situation. I wanted to combine both. The film has a metaphorical dimension but, at the same time, I wanted the financial situation to also be part of it.
You have a degree in Physics from the University of Athens. How did you get involved in filmmaking?
I really liked studying Physics, it was my choice. At the same time, I grew up watching a lot of films. I was really curious. I went to film school basically out of curiosity.
Is your family involved in filmmaking?
No. Sometimes things happen and you don’t think about it. You make some choices, but you don’t know what is going to happen. You experiment, and I started with short films for film school. Then you think I can do that better and try again, and time goes by and you realize that it’s the only thing I am doing and don’t know how to do anything else.
In the end, all your studies and experiences are connected. I am sure your degree in Physics helped with filmmaking…
Yes. It’s interesting because, in Physics, the cause-effect is also part of the drama. You have to structure the film and it needs to make sense; not in the most obvious way, you have to have a reason for everything in writing or directing. Especially in writing, because you make choices and you need to find the reasons behind them.
What made you choose the particular title of the film?
Deciding a title is hard. I didn’t really choose it. As I was writing, I wanted to divide the film in chapters, sort of a pop novel. So I realized that each chapter could have the day and time. Then I decided for that particular date because some of the audience might want to see out of curiosity what happens at this point.
The style is a very unique and beautiful in the film. Can you talk about the cinematography and style choices?
I wanted to do something different because in Greece we don’t really do those kinds of films. Even if we didn’t want to do something unusual it would come out that way. You have to reinvent to find your own way to do it. Of course we all have seen genre films, there are a lot of gangster films in American cinema. When you want to do a Greek film of this kind, it has to come with a unique flavor, which will set it apart from other European or American films. With the DOP, we tried to find interesting ways to present the city. Athens is not a beautiful city so we wanted to make the city interesting and to look different since we didn’t want to make a realistic film. We wanted it to be stylized almost as a comic book. We discussed how to change the city and locations through lighting, colors, and camera movements. To show specific things and hide others, we didn’t want the viewer to see at the same time and create some sort of subjective version of reality. For me, the city and the film are extensions of the protagonist mind and his tortured soul.
How did you come across the cast?
The main actors, I knew. Stelios Mainas is a big star in Greece. I had just met him, and we talked about the screenplay and discussed the film, a lot. I soon realized he was the perfect actor for this role. The German actor, Adan Bousdoukos, was proposed to me by my German producer. For the smaller parts we chose from the castings.
— Interview conducted by Lia Fietz