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Emma Stone finds relief in grim Greek silent movie – which she filmed for free

Emma Stone attends a press conference after the screening of her new short film Bleat (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)
Emma Stone attends a press conference after the screening of her new short film Bleat (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Emma Stone says she found starring in a new Greek silent film to be a welcome professional challenge and a relief from the normal demands of her job.

The 33-year-old Hollywood star spoke on Thursday from Greece, where she travelled for the screening and premiere of Bleat, rejoining director Yorgos Lanthimos three years after their collaboration on The Favourite, which earned her another Oscar nod.

Playing a young widow in the 30-minute movie, with surreal and disturbing scenes of sex, death and resurrection, Stone said she welcomed the limited-release project set on the island of Tinos and featuring goats roaming its rock-and-thorn landscape.

The Academy Award winner, who was named best actress for La La Land in 2017 and waived her fee to participate in Bleat, said: “What I like about Yorgos would take me a very long time to answer.

“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 (to) want to give yourself over to something and not have to worry about every small move you make.”

Bleat, shot using traditional film cameras and presented with a live 36-member orchestra and choir that follows the story with a jarring score, 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.

Emma Stone with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos
Emma Stone with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Bleat was shot in early 2020 on Tinos, which is 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 asked.

“I guess that’s also true of life.”

The film will be screened to the public for three days this week at the Greek 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 millimetre 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.”