December 31, 2012 -- This hiking trip through the Caucasus Mountains features very little dialog, or explanation about what is happening. This is one of those films where very little happens very slowly, but there are a couple of dramatic scenes which change the complexion of the film. The effect is seen in the faces and actions of the characters.
Most of the film takes place on a hiking trip through rugged terrain. Two adventure tourists, the red-haired woman Nika (played by Hani Furstenberg) and her fiancé, Alex (Gael García Bernal of “The Motorcycle Diaries”) hire a local Georgian guide, Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze) for their trip. Dato speaks broken English with a very strong accent. English is the main language of the movie, but there is a quite a lot of Georgian spoken as well.
The trio scramble over boulders, ford creeks, climb across pipes and ropes that form primitive bridges and edge along narrow goat trails, wide glaciers and through enormous, steep valleys in this very scenic area of Georgia. They run across hot springs, old buildings, unexplained industrial-type equipment spouting steam and water, but very seldom spot other people on their trip. In the background in some scenes tall, scenic mountains are sometimes seen.
Everything on this trip is fairly normal for such a trip except for a few incidents. One intense life or death incident is highly dramatic. I won't spoil it by describing it, but it has a visible impact on both Alex and Nika and it affects their relationship during the rest of the trip. Nika visibly avoids Alex and doesn't want to be touched by him. In another incident, Nika falls into a creek and suffers from mild hypothermia. In another incident there is a personal encounter between Nika and Dato.
The effect of these dramatic incidents on the three people are shown almost entirely visually, although one touching story is conveyed in dialog. This film is beautifully photographed and the acting is very good. It has to be, since so much of the story is told with facial expressions and body language alone. I was greatly impressed with the beauty and variety of the landscape of the Caucasus Mountains and nearby areas.
During the trip, the trio seldom travels together. Usually it is Alex and Nika walking together, or Nika and Dato, with the third person walking some distance away. This is a strong visual clue as to the developing social dynamic which develops during the hike. The version I saw of this film had no subtitles. I assume a commercial DVD of this film would have subtitles. I think that would be an improvement. This film rates a C+.
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