Controversy is bound to follow the opening of Head On, but
after festival screenings in Cannes and now in Melbourne,
Kokkinos is secure in her film.
everything I set out to."
"I feel very confident about the film," she says,
"Iíve achieved everything I set out to. Some people
have said the sex is too confronting, and thatís true, it is
very confronting. But there is a tone in the film that I wanted
to keep which is what I felt when I read the book. Ari is
obsessed with the body. And he only trusts the intoxication of
the moment. His sexual exploits and his drugs come from the
characterÖhe challenges us with it.
"My responsibility was to represent him in a true way,
not water down his character."
Kokkinos is also encouraged by the fact that "people feel
itís uncompromising, and saying itís time to see
something that is really about our cultural diversity and
exploring that in a complex and honest way."
"His only mode of self
expression is in excess"
Head On is the story of Ari (Alex Dimitriades), a young Greek
man in Melbourne, in conflict with his background, his sexuality,
unable to come to terms with his future, and unable to express
the turmoil within his passionate heart, or his individual head.
His only mode of self expression is in excess: excess in sex, in
drugs, in anti-social and anti-authority behaviour, rejecting his
parents but also rejecting his need of them. Just as he rejects
the notion of getting a job. And he somehow has to survive
In Cannes, people were still talking about the film five days
after seeing it, and Southern Star, who handle international
sales, had to put on extra screenings to satisfy demand. Despite
its R rating, Head On was deemed commercially interesting.
Almost universally applauded by critics (so far), Kokkinos was
intrigued by one comment in The Financial Review, where Peter
Crayford felt that Ari (Alex Dimitriades) displayed "a
detonating self pity. Pity is a quality together with terror,
that the audience should feel for the characters, not the
characters for themselves."
"What we have tried to
do is capture his emotional journey"
"I donít agree that itís self pity," she
says. "What you see is Ari struggling, and acknowledging his
pain. I wouldnít describe it as self pity. Itís pain
and the acknowledgment of that."
In an interview over a private buffet lunch in Melbourne, just
after Kokkinos finished making Head On, she explained how the Ari
character in Christos Tsiolkasí novel attracted her and her
co-writers Andrew Bovell and Mira Robertson. "Ari was such a
compelling character in the book that that was really the big
thing that attracted us to it and wanting to tell his story. What
we have tried to do is capture his emotional journey so in that
sense we really wanted to dramatise his emotional journey - and I
think that is what we have achieved."
And Robertson added: "Although I think weíve held
very true to the spirit of the book and I think youíll be
surprised at how true weíve held to that. The idea of
turning it into a story of redemption was one that we did reject,
because I donít think that would have been true to the
spirit of the book."
telling something about us."
For her next film, Kokkinos will return to an idea she has
been working on with Robertson, The Parakeets, which jane Scott,
producer of Head On, may also produce. "Itís a drama
and another Australian story, but very a different landscape and
characters," she says. "Again, itís telling
something about us."