Common People and Reality

in 41st Viennale - Vienna International Film Festival

by Viliam Jablonický

Debuts play and will play one of the important roles in cinematography of the future. I hope that it will be no exception that at the great festivals like Venice 2003 Andrej Svjagincev won with The Return, his debuty feature.

At the traditional Viennale {International Film Festival} 2003 among other attractive new films were more interesting fiction or second films from last two years. Not only traditional strong countries like USA and France, but from Asia – Korea /with three films, too/, Japan, China and Argentina, Austria.

Frequently among the present-day films were confrontations dreams of common people not living in favorable social-economical conditions. Very important is that these “questions of happiness” of all generations is presented by new young directors who would like to present above all a picture of and reflexion on their own generation.

Generally all the young directors face reality with open eyes. The most talented do not only show reality like it is and as it seems to be but penetrate to its depth, presenting the common, mostly poor and lonely people, but also a broader view of society.

The Fipresci jury at Viennale awarded a Special Mention to the French film “Depuis qu’Otar est parti” /Since Otar left/ directed by Julie Bertucelli in her first fiction feature. The film reflects a tragic situation of the intelligentsia in a new condition of changing systems from socialism to capitalism in the early national post Soviet state with former very old cultures /which play a role in the rise of unforgettable Georgian film traditions from the last century, which is practically dead today/. We do not see it directly but the Georgian society is only some years past the cruel, absurd and tragic civil war. Only an old lady Eka /wonderfully played by Esther Gorintin/ comments occasionally on former very famous international politician from the Soviet era who is again in power, speaking something in television: Scoundrel! That is a whole but clear political comment on the situation in the country which determined poor social status not only of a former important high educational and elite family, but on the whole society. All are in the same situation and condition like other common people. We see it also on the market where everybody would like to sell something.. This is one of small possibilities like to earn some money. There is a tragic story of the three generation family. Only three women are left, selling their rare French books hidden from Bolsheviks in the past. They live through supported by small money amounts sent from Paris by their son, brother and uncle Otar. A former intellectual has found a job as common and probably illegal construction worker. After his tragic death in an accident the sister and niece don’t have the courage to tell the grandmother, because for her the son is a living myth, the person who can save the integrity and living standard of the family. Opposing the brutal world, the unbelievable love, warmth and power of familiar relationships exist. Nostalgic reminiscence of the oldest woman surmounts the present. Eka even demonstratives defense of Stalin, not only her dead man and son Otar in exile. In the past, the whole Soviet society lived a big lie. Today, the family lives in small lies, continuing the game of white lies of mercy for the sake of an old lady.

The Film has not a very original structure; it is more classical but very good, professional in its screenplay, directing and camerawork. It brings very strong humanistic ideas and ideals, exceptional in the contemporary cinematography. With other excellent film debuts about “common people” the Viennale /Austrian “Böse Zellen” – Free Radicals, Argentinean “Ana y los otros” – Ana and the Others, Portugal “Nos” – Us, Chinese “Shang shang” – On the Mountain, the Korean “Mil-ae” – Ardor, etc./ contributed to the high standards of the festival.