January 6, 2015 -- This film out of Georgia (a candidate for the Academy Awards from that nation) depicts a society not far removed from anarchy, or the Middle Ages, for that matter. It is a society so foreign to that of modern American society as to be nearly incomprehensible. This was so foreign to me I had a lot of trouble associating names with faces. A lot of the men, and a lot of the women looked very similar to each other.
Set in Tblisi, Georgia in the 1990s, shortly after that nation achieved independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the story centers on two 14-year-old girls, Eka and Natia (played by Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria). They are best friends on the verge of growing up.
The future seems pretty bleak for these two pretty girls. This is a society where a girl can be kidnapped in broad daylight, in front of witnesses, then raped and then forced to marry the man who raped her. This is depicted in this film and apparently, it is legal and accepted by this society. This is not all that uncommon in societies of the past, but is almost unheard of in modern industrialized countries.
There is a good deal of violence going on in this film. Young men rove the streets beating up people, intimidating people and killing people. Men with guns cut in front of the line and take more than their share of the daily bread ration. Eka's and Natia's families are violent. Eka's father is in prison for murder. Natia's father beats her mother and her grandmother yells at her and her brother all the time. Natia's mother and father have violent arguments all the time. Everyone seems to be mad at everyone.
Natia's friend, Lado (Data Zakareishvili) gives Natia a loaded pistol as a present. When she starts carrying this gun around and even loaning it out to Eka, you get the feeling something tragic is going to happen. Lado seems to be the only guy in the film with any notion of romance, the gun aside. The rest of the guys in the film are brutish.
In the midst of all this violence, anger, angst and hopelessness, Eka is an island of relative calm. Nothing seems to get to her. One of the more striking scenes in the movie is Eka dancing at a wedding where she has nothing much to dance for. It is a dance of defiance, more than anything else.
There is a senseless murder, but when it looks like a revenge killing is about to happen, Eka steps in and helps put an end to the cycle of violence, then makes a journey to reconcile with her father. So there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel in this grim tale, but whether it is a better future, or a train coming at her on a collision course is unknown. This film rates a C+.
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