Vasilis Marmatakis' works

Why does Emma Stone have her eyes and lips painted? Why should a canine tooth should be consist of a three-lines spline? Is that even a tooth? Why is Colin Farrel hugging the void shaped as a person?

From Fang to Poor Things, the brain behind some of the most iconic posters of recent years is Vasilis Marmatakis, the indivisible support of the fictional universe of the Film Director Yorgos Lanthimos.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-1

And if you stop to think about it, it is not the easiest job in the world.

But, how does he manage to capture the absurd-core of these films through a single drawing?

Tonight, on the 10th of March, the Oscars are about to begin.

While I’m patiently waiting for the start of the 96th edition of the Academy Awards, which sees Poor Things nominated in eleven categories (eleven!), I am delighted to go deep into a rare, brilliant, and spontaneous artist who translates his sensibility into a recognizable and prickly stylish signature, the one that Lanthimos selected for encapsulating the ultimate meaning of his movies, or the hint for the audience before they watch them.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-2

Above: Vasilis Marmatakis’s posters for Yorgos Lanthimos’s films (from the left) Dogtooth (2009), The Lobster (2015), Alps (2011). Source: Mubi.

I think it’s an entry to the film. It creates the right mind frame. I found out about films through posters. When I was a kid, I’d get videotapes because of the covers. I discovered cinema, like Dario Argento, through the posters.

Vasilis Marmatakis

Born in Greece, Marmatakis studied graphic design at Camberwell College of Arts and the Royal College of Art in the 1990s, while crowning his desire of living in London since he was a teenager. Then he met Lanthimos in an Athens advertising agency and also Efthymis Filippou who would go on to write almost all of Lanthimos’s films. They met, and they never left each other.

In 2003 Marmatakis co-founded the Athens design studio MNP with Katerina Papanagiotou (their logo appears on the Dogtooth poster above) and since 2009 he has worked as a freelance designer as well as a visiting professor at the Vakalo College of Art & Design in Athens, graphically interpreting every single Lanthimos, film, from 2009 until this very end in 2023.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-3

First US teaser poster for Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, US/UK/Ireland, 2023). Design by Vasilis Marmatakis © 2023 SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-4

Second US teaser poster for Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, US/UK/Ireland, 2023). Design by Vasilis Marmatakis © 2023 SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

Marmatakis is given complete creative freedom in his work.

The design journey starts with a deep dive into the movie.

He begins by reading the script before filming, then visits the set to get a feel for the general mood. He locks himself in his studio for 2 or 3 months and finally presents a range of various printed designs.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-5

Various versions of The Killing of a sacred deer posters

However, his work is not limited to the posters’ design. Marmatakis creates an all-encompassing package of the film, graphically interpreting the opening and closing credits, where the font choice and placement are not just fundamental but metaphorically representative of all the communication the film wants to have.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-6

For The Favorite, the typeface is spaced out, taking up some of the layouts of the Victorian-era, and taking them to extremes, following the paradoxical dynamics of the film.

In Poor Things, a thin, almost childlike lettering, helps not to cover up the beautiful images that punctuate the transition from one chapter to another, while in the opening and closing credits, the type frames painted backgrounds like it is ideally containing a colorful dream in its graphic limitation.


Poor things, First US teaser poster details.
The childish impact of her dreamy universe hides flashes of the protagonist’s life.
Marmatakis sapiently mystifies the plot while making it evident at the same time.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-8

The Favorite poster portraits the image of a queen with “two insects” lying on her face, which are shutting her mouth. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are about to clean her eyeball and to decorate her with pearls, as if they’re both manipulating a dead body. Which is, in a way, the point of the whole film.

Beyond his work with Yorgos, his portfolio is full of spectacular designs, and if you were wondering which his favorite poster is, it is the one designed by Hans Hillmann for Bresson's film Pickpocket. Guess what? It is "the most moving film” Yorgos has  ever seen, too.

adf-web-magazine-vasilis marmatakis-the-designer-behind-lanthimos-fictionary-film-posters-9

1966 German poster by Hans Hillmann for Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, France, 1959).

Few poster designers today wield more creative control than Marmatakis, reminding us that a robust imagination combined with high sensitivity creates intriguing, timeless design pieces.

And as I finally get into bed after this night, I learn that Yorgos Lanthimos' latest film has distinguished itself again by winning four Oscars.

The team still manages to amaze everyone.