In the recent period, Georgian and world cinema have seen the cases of turning to renewed forms of parables, to fable narration. An atmosphere is created, which is based on convention and subtexts, contains a system of messages for the audience and reveals the author’s clear position. It hints, but does not explain. It has a hidden meaning conveyed by a system of symbols. It doesn't violate on the viewer and grants him full freedom of perception, evaluation, reading under the condition of personal explanation of events.
"Otar’s Death" is a 2021 film by Ioseb (Soso) Bliadze. This is a parable about modern society, without morals and didactics, such is the "criteria" of a modern parable and its new transformation. However, everything that should have happened "canonically" in the finale, happens at the beginning, and the audience has to explain what happened, draw conclusions and make decisions for themselves.
The story on which the film is based (screenplay authors: Soso Bliadze and Elmar Imanov) seems a way of life and could be used as information from a television news report. A 16-year-old boy, Nika (Iva Kimeridze), is driving his mother’s (Nutsa Kukhianidze) car alone as they lost each other at the picnic; he can’t find his way in the village alleys and hits an old man (Marlen Egutia) standing in front of his yard. A man dies from the hit. The daughter of the deceased, Tamara (Eka Chavleishvili) reacts quickly and asks for a substantial amount of money (although it is "less than the value of a person's life") as a payment for his death, to fulfill her dream of moving to the city. In these actions, she forcibly involves her son, who is traditionally named after the grandpa – Otar (Archil Makalatia), and everyone around him. The side of the culprit also gets involved in the case and tries to free Nika from imprisonment.
Everything revolves around two central lines – Nika's personal and Otar’s family's purposeful actions. And it is clearly seen how an accidental, even a tragedy or an atypical case can change, transform not only today, not only tomorrow's plans, but also the whole life of a young (naturally, not only) person; to reveal the signs and features of people's character, nature, abilities, which may have been hidden or unnoticed before; to let everyone's true face disclose. how people behave in extreme, dead-end situations, that is, what they really are.
After Otar’s "death," the mother-son’s way doubles. It may even triple. As the story unfolds in a fragmented/collaged way of events, family members, friends, police, family’s relatives, neighbors, funeral wake organizers, random companions are involved as needed.
Along with the above-mentioned, characters create the portrait of the society, in the interior or exterior by the ensemble of actors in main, secondary or episodic roles – Taki Mumladze, Vakho Chachanidze, Anka Kalatozishvili, Davit Roinishvili, Rusudan Kobiashvili, Natia Chikviladze, Dimitri Tatishvili, Pavle Nozadze, Nino Pilpani, Amiran Naskidashvili and others. Everyone's lives intersect and cut into each other's borders. A moral, mental picture of society is drawn and themes of their desires, goals, plans, unfulfilled lives or illusory achievements are revealed.
"Otar’s Death" begins with a gunshot, and a dead pheasant falling into the grass is the first major clue of what is to come. The exposition ends, and before the circle closes, a lot changes. The film begins not where it practically begins, but when something – the main – key and essential happens.
Descriptions of events, often seemingly insignificant stories follow each other – packing luggage, hanging laundry, washing oneself, having breakfast or dinner, preparing for prison and the familiar routine of preparation for funeral wake, and even such details as, say, a grasshopper on the back or an insignificant shadow falling somewhere. These details acquire the same importance and load as the village chair half-buried in the ground and broken walls, or the children's litters shown "incidentally," a fragment of the hymn "You are the Vineyard;" a coffin in a shot prepared for burial and a glimmering candle-candelabra; necessary or unnecessary objects – at home or in the farm shed. In the shed as a shelter, which will then be burnt to cinders.
Dragged time and circumstances. The first, expository part – introducing. Getting to know each other, finding out about relationships and "who is who?" – takes 15-20 minutes of screen time. Then it gets dark. Only voices are heard and shadows are seen. And just at this moment, when you think that the film has taken shape for a long time, the inscription – "Otar’s Death" appears in the shot as a sign of the real beginning of the film, and the main action starts from this very moment.
Soso Bliadze builds everything on counterpoint. Tension is covered in hidden and transparent, airy humor like a cobweb. It takes almost the same amount of time to tell a story as, say, it takes to drive from one "real" point to another, or take an elevator, or cross a street, or ride a funicular or a tram. Long-stop, unchanging shots. Silence. Emphasis, in the combined time, it is stated how the day changes into night, then how it turns again. Pauses that sometimes last 1-2 minutes. A world devoid of sounds, the silence of which is periodically interrupted by music, and its visual impression is monochrome both at night and during the day. More gray than colored. However, with color photography. Exhaust or some other fog, smog, which covers the city and the "image" of clear air, cleanliness - in the countryside, from which there is nowhere to escape. The cameraman Dimitri Dekanosidze's camera captures all of this with a matching, changing and flexible plastic image (the topic of escapade is one of the "main" topics in the cinema of the late 20th century and the first decades of the 21st century).
The action in parallel passes from the streets of the city, from standard (neutral, faceless) interiors to the village, to a desolate, plastered village house (with standard architecture, a fence, a gate, a shed), which is strongly considered to be a sign of poverty and hardship, perhaps even neglect (as a "temporary parking lot"). Instead, the city's monotony, grayness, in one tone (even in the process of day-night alternation) and against the background of the slowly passing days, other values of the village prevail – space, landscapes, water – the lake (in the finale, it turns into a purification ritual from an ordinary reservoir), which is the final major chord.
Georgian cinema mainly focuses on the problems of the relationship between fathers and children, and films about mothers and children are rare. "Otar’s Death" is an exception. It is primarily about the relationship between mothers and sons, about authoritative mothers who manage their children's lives as they need; their steps are controlled and driven at their will like well-trained animals. This form of domestic violence is as common a life event as physical violence or violence against women. And violence, as we know, always leads to violence.
The parable often ends with an unexpected result or takes an unexpected new direction in the process. At the same time, up to a certain point, an important turning point in the development of events, everything goes smoothly, without special zigzags and sharp transitions.
"Otar’s Death" begins with an intense incident, and in the finale it becomes clear that the old Otar, having being mourned and become the object of the death trade, the deal (whose death is actively being prepared), has not died or died and came back to life (!), that is, what determined such a course of events and turned everything upside down, which is the impulse of shocking and dramatic collisions – it was not true, but it turned out to be beneficial. Compensation has been paid.
Otar "wakes up," takes a gun and goes to the lake to hunt. Nika swims into the same lake, and his clothes are passed by the resurrected old man and his hunting dog. Otar is alive. Nothing informs Nika's physical death either. But everything confirms the fact of moral death.
In the international festival media, Soso Bliadze is compared to Asghar Farhadi and the Darden brothers, he is called the rising "star" of Georgian cinema and articles after articles are dedicated to him. The winner of several international film festivals (both in Georgia and abroad) in various nominations, "Otar’s Death" is truly an expressive example of the viability of new Georgian cinema.