How ‘The Father’ Editor Yorgos Lamprinos Sculpted Narrative Puzzle, Tapping Into A Subjective Experience Of Dementia

Anthony Hopkins in 'The Father'
Anthony Hopkins in 'The Father' Sony Pictures Classics

On The Father, editor Yorgos Lamprinos went deep into the mind of an aging Welshman, working to represent an experience of dementia, and how it agonizingly distorts one’s worldview.

The first feature from Florian Zeller, based on his acclaimed 2012 play, Le Père, centers on Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), a man who lives with his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman). Struggling to cope as his memory degrades and his sense of reality unravels, the character finds himself caught between anxiety, confusion, anger and paranoia, lashing out, while refusing assistance from the woman who loves him the most.

For Lamprinos, the intimate two-hander proved to be both an exciting collaboration and a beautifully complex puzzle to put together. As he set out to edit the film, Zeller’s clever, non-linear script, and the ingenious production design of Peter Francis were key elements to build from, which allowed him to accentuate the dysfunctional mechanics of an aging mind.

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in 'The Father'
Sean Gleason/Sony Pictures Classics

Below, the editor reflects on the gut-punch of Zeller’s script, working with stellar performances from two Oscar winners, and the process by which he got into Anthony’s head.

DEADLINE: How did you get involved with The Father? What excited you about the notion of cutting it?

YORGOS LAMPRINOS: Florian Zeller contacted me after watching some of my work. We had a meeting in his office and discussed a bit about the film, and from the very beginning, I knew that it was a film that I really wanted to be a part of. We got along great since the very first meeting, and he took the decision to trust me and to work with me, so we worked on the movie together.

To me, it was a really intense script. I had to stop while reading the script, just to gather myself a bit, and that doesn’t happen every day. So, I knew that we had something powerful on the pages, and hopefully, we managed to put something powerful on the screen.

DEADLINE: What did your first conversations with Zeller entail?

LAMPRINOS: It wasn’t a very technical conversation. It was just, first of all, getting to know one another, and talking about films in general, and art in general, to see where our tastes lie, and we realized that we had several things in common, in our way of seeing things. Then, we had a couple of conversations about the movie, which went in that direction, too. We felt the same way about the sound, about specific technical things about the making of the movie.

Then, the relationship truly developed once we started to work together because I started editing while they were shooting. We had a couple of conversations during the shoot, but I didn’t want to get too much involved. I mean, the planning was quite tight, so it wasn’t a shoot that would permit me to be really involved. So, I was doing my work, on my own, in Paris. They were shooting in London. We had a couple of conversations, and then when he came back, we saw a first cut, and started working together on the edit.

DEADLINE: What exactly did you agree on, in terms of the approach to this story?

LAMPRINOS: When I read the script, one of the first things I talked to him about is that to me, even if it’s not that, I had a horror movie in my head—which is not exactly the film. But that was my approach, and where we needed to put the audience. We also talked about [the idea that] the most important thing in the film is to put the audience exactly in Anthony’s head. So, the first discussions revolved around those types of things.

DEADLINE: In The Father, we experience Anthony’s confused sense of time and space, which only worsens throughout the course of the film’s run. But how did you, as an editor, work to tap into his experience?

Anthony Hopkins in 'The Father'
Sean Gleason/Sony Pictures Classics

LAMPRINOS: It has to do with where you set Anthony in each different scene, and then how you use things, like shifting a bit the point of the view, or a bit of repetition in the dialogue, in certain scenes. It’s those types of things that permit you to really put the audience in his head.

Also, it’s a question of pace—which scenes you need to drag a little bit, to get another emotion out of them, which scenes need to be faster, so the spectator stays in the same emotion. I mean, obviously, editing is all about pace. So, pace, in this film, to me, was really, really important. Because editing-wise, it’s not a flashy film. But the internal pace of the film is what makes it work.

DEADLINE: What was it like working with the performances of the film’s stars?

LAMPRINOS: After finding that the script was really strong, the other big motivation, obviously, was to be able to work with those types of performances. I mean, you don’t get people like this everyday. Anthony Hopkins is somebody that I really respect, [in terms of] his work, and I’ve followed his work for a long time. But I was really blown away by Olivia Colman. Really blown away. It was amazing because she was never, never out. I mean, you can be good or not that good in a scene, but she was never, ever out of it, during everything that I watched with her, and that really blew my mind.

We had also the chance of having people like Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell and Imogen Poots that play a small role. But I feel like, and I hope that every character of this movie takes his own place, like it’s supposed to do. They all brought something to the film which was a real treat, in terms of editing to work on.

DEADLINE: It must have been a fun challenge to cut scenes featuring extended monologues from Anthony. Hopkins excels at playing this character who turns, emotionally, on a dime.

LAMPRINOS: Exactly, and he also gave us a lot of choices. Sometimes, he would take it too far on purpose, so we could design things the way we wanted. But especially with his character, it was a real bit of work to go from take to take, in order to [communicate] what we wanted to express—the exact emotion we wanted to have, and the peak that we wanted to have at each moment. Because he can be tough; he can be mean; he can be wonderful. He can be the grandfather, or the older man that lives across the hall from you. He can be whatever. [Laughs]

DEADLINE: What was it like working with the structure of this film? Its use of time loops and shifts in perspective really allows the viewer to understand Anthony. 

LAMPRINOS: Florian wrote the play like 10 years ago, so it’s something that has really crystallized in his mind. But the work in the edit room…Besides the repetitions, we tried different stuff. We did experiment with some things that worked; some things didn’t work, that we didn’t use. But the real structural conversations came mostly for the apartment and how we used the space. Because even the scene with the repetition of the dinner is something that he had in mind when he shot it. He knew that it was something that might not work, so we could try it, and not use it, or whatever. But it’s something that he already knew he wanted to try while he shot. There’s a couple of scenes that got moved around, but mostly, it was about how we used the shots of the flat, and the evolution of the space. That was the real challenge in the edit room.

DEADLINE: The way the film is structured is fascinating, in that it allows the viewer to fully piece together Anthony’s story over time, with little narrative clues sprinkled throughout. At the same time, Anthony can never quite grasp the truth of his past, present or future.

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in 'The Father'
Sony Pictures Classics

LAMPRINOS: Yes, and I have to say, that’s Florian’s mastery. Because if you take the puzzle that is this film and you try to put it together—and I think that that is brilliant—you can never do it. It doesn’t work. There are films that are structured in a non-linear fashion that you can put together, and they become linear. This film never becomes linear. That’s the whole point of it, because Anthony’s head works that way. He can never reassemble things. So, even though the film’s structure goes in loops, it’s also a loop that will never work. That was Florian’s intention from the very beginning, and one that I also found a brilliant choice.

DEADLINE: Were there other major challenges for you, apart from working with the evolution in set design?

LAMPRINOS: The challenge of this film was to not lose the audience, and to always be emotionally where we need to be, because even if the film has that loop that you mentioned, the whole point of this film is something really humane and really profound. It was never about making something technically sound, or something catchy, and having a non-linear structure, just to have it. The structure comes because it’s the whole point of the movie, [and] the whole point of the movie is the emotion.

DEADLINE: Were there scenes that you particularly enjoyed editing?

LAMPRINOS: I had a lot of great scenes. The scene at the beginning of the film, with Imogen Poots and Anthony, where he does the tap dancing the first time, it was a bliss to edit that scene. That was pure bliss. [Laughs] It was many, many moments, emotional moments between Olivia and Anthony that blew me away. The scenes in the hospital, they’re super deep, emotional.

Also, while I was alone in Paris, editing the first cut while they were shooting, I had a week that the film really took a toll on me, and it was quite hard. Because the film [deals with] situations that we all go through, even if the other people around don’t all have dementia.

I saw my father; I don’t see him often. He’s in Greece, and I saw him a couple of weeks before starting to work on the movie. It was the first time I saw him [in a while], and he felt old to me, if you understand what I mean. So, while I was working in the beginning, I had a couple of weeks where it was, even to me, a bit tough emotionally. But then obviously, as an editor, when you work on a film that has material like that, you need to block things off a bit, because you don’t want to get crazy yourself. [Laughs]

But I feel like the whole point, also, of the movie is that people think about situations, and how we treat each other, without getting any lesson from the movie. That’s something I’m really proud of, also. I don’t think it’s a movie that gives you lessons. But at the same time, I hope that people, at the end of the movie, consider things, think about things and try to maybe even change their way of doing things.

DEADLINE: What did you most enjoy about working with Zeller?

LAMPRINOS: I always like working on a first feature. I mean, every film has its excitement, but the first film of a director has a particular excitement because they have a vision in their head, and they try to make it work, and to see it in front of them.

Every collaboration between editor and director is very profound because it’s very intimate. But in the first feature, there’s more stress, so there’s a lot more excitement, and I had a really great collaboration. I can say that Florian is someone that became a friend, after our collaboration, that’s really, really important to me, because even though it’s his first film, he had a level of understanding of the craft that really blew me away. Also, as a person, he’s a great collaborator because he’s generous. He lets you take your place, and he understands what you are there to do.

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