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April 05, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Finding realistic, complex cinematic portrayals of women going through seismic life changes can be challenging.
Tonia Mishiali's "Pause" is a notable exception. The haunting film pulls no punches as it tells the story of Elpida (Stela Fyrogeni), a Greek housewife approaching menopause and finally getting fed up with her insensitive husband and stifling life.
In disorienting scenes that blur the lines between fantasy and the real world, Elpida explores illicit romance and her secret daydreams, which leads to questions centered on identity and desire.
"At a time when women in cinema are misrepresented, I wanted this film to depict a female character that is very much real," says the director, who also co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced the film.
"I have always been sensitive to women's issues and equality, while I have been particularly interested in exploring the decadent relationships in marriage. Dealing with this subject in my debut seemed right because it was also very personal."
In particular, Mishiali says her upbringing in Cyprus—where she saw firsthand how the country's patriarchal society affected the women in her direct orbit—had a major impact on "Pause" and how the character of Elpida evolves.
"[I watched] the women in my family and all other women around me living on the sidelines, with the main purpose of their lives serving their spouse and children," she recalls.
"So I wanted to make a film that is viewed through the prism of the complex and fascinating female nature, about the loss of one’s voice, the longing for love and unquenchable desires."
To capture these intimate feelings, Mishiali made a conscious decision to use a hand-held camera, which meant that the movie's perspective was inextricably tied to Elpida's own worldview.
"The audience would only see what she sees," the director adds. "There was no shot without Elpida around. This way I wanted to make the audience immerse into her inner world and really get into her shoes as much as possible."
The end result is that "Pause" is deeply felt— Mishiali dubs the movie "a cautionary tale about a woman at the end of her tether, but without the courage to save herself"—and Elpida is the kind of character that lingers long after the movie ends.
"My protagonist is an original cinematic persona," she says. "She is passive and submissive, but still carries within her hope and freedom.
PHOTO: Tonia Mishiali was born in Cyprus and studied in the UK. The character of Elpida in her film “Pause” was created to show the reality of women's “everyday lives, and enter their true inner worlds."
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