Friday, April 17, 2015

Movie with Abe: Tangerines

Directed by Zaza Urushadze
Released April 17, 2015

War affects many people, both those on the front lines and those whose countries, towns, and homes are involved in some way in the conflict. When a war spans multiple countries, it’s often those caught in the middle in a disputed region that end up being placed most in harm’s way. “Tangerines,” an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film this past year, is a marvelous and moving account of a tangerine farmer in rural Georgian territory who ends up with two soldiers from different sides forced to recover and live side by side in his home.

Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) is a kindly older man in Abkhazia in 1990 who lives a quiet life, harvesting tangerines with his neighbor Margus (Elmo Nuganen). His calm is disrupted when two Chechen mercenaries arrive at his door. Though their visit is pleasant enough, their departure is marked by a short battle that leaves many of their Georgian opponents and one of them dead. Ivo takes in Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze), but also discovers another wounded man - Niko (Mikheil Meskhi) – who is Georgian. Ivo makes them both promise that they will not kill each other in his house, but that does not stop them from threatening to chop off each other’s heads the moment either steps outside for even a second.

“Tangerines” is a deliberate, carefully-paced film that feels anything but slow. Its original music, from composer Niaz Diasamidze, introduces the impact of its story from the beginning before anything happens, and emphatically underscores the rhythm of living a peaceful existence surrounded by such violence and hate. The tangerine garden serves as a symbol of a small remnant of beauty and sunshine, and Margus in particular is devastated by the prospects of not being able to pick all the tangerines, meaning that the harvest will go to waste. Ivo has a more accepting attitude, but he too clearly relishes the quieter sweetness of life to the angry conflict.

This film relies heavily on its small cast of four main actors to convey a region deeply plagued by ethnic disputes. Both Ahmed and Niko are strong, resilient people, with a heavily wounded Ahmed trying to sneak out of his bed to kill his Georgian enemy and Niko egging his Chechen rival on at every opportunity, insulting his intelligence and his way of life. Mediated by Ivo, they make a magnificent pair. The cast is uniformly excellent in Estonia’s first Oscar-nominated film, a stirring and well-constructed picture of specific representations of broader ideals.


No comments: