The Use of mythological symbols in world cinema is not really new. Fortunately, some similar examples can be found in recent Georgian cinema. One of them is Sandro Suladze's short film, "The Watchers" (2021) which deals with this issue from a different perspective. Georgian diverse mythological characters allow to present the topic in many ways. After all, every region has a own symbol of its own: in Mtianeti – Hobbard, Yakhsar, Hobgoblin, in Mingrelia – Tkashmafa, forest troll, in Svan – Apsati, Dali, Shavkhan, etc.

The author tells the story of two brothers (Lasha and Gio), who live with their father in the village, on the edge of the forest, far from the population. They have their only favorite goat, Rosie. One day, a neighbor brings the news that beasts have got used to coming to the village and have destroyed the livestock, although the women in the village say that they are evil spirits because neither beasts nor humans could have caused so much damage. Being a good hunter, the boys' father has to join the group to help the village. This is where the real adventure begins for children who are left alone for two days.

Today, there are many films created for children and adolescents. Most of them are simple and superficial, but in "The Watchers" everything is completely different. This is not just another fairy tale, but a fascinating legend with an interesting plot and philosophy.

To reveal the truth, the heroes have to explore the forest, the hill, and watch from the house roof. The work shows how fearless a child becomes to save a beloved creature. Despite their fear, they recklessly go into the forest to find Rosie. They have already realized at this age that people need to support each other and we should not be afraid of challenges; if we do not take responsibility, no one will do it for us.

Not only do the boys have to find out the truth but they are also forced to confront a great evil in the form of a neighbor who kills domestic animals and invents various mythical stories to confuse the villagers. Brothers say goodbye to childhood and become adults in one night. If at the beginning of the film they believe in evil spirits, in the finale, they forget their fear and become bolder by throwing away the amulet. They directly face reality, they begin to understand that a person is ready for anything to achieve a goal. He is more dangerous than the beast.

It is always difficult for the human to cope with what one does not understand, but it is even more difficult to deal with something clear and inevitable. This makes our world a constant test. This is exactly the brothers’ story. They lost their childhood in one night and faced the cruel reality. It turns out that there are no evil spirits, animals are killed by their neighbor and he invents stories himself. But is it so easy to suddenly grow up, to resist the urge to stay forever in your little infinite world where you can play and make up fairy tales? There is a great desire to stay as long as possible during this period. When there are no boundaries between good and evil, unconscious actions cause serious consequences.

The idea of the film is very intriguing and makes you hope that you will see something unusual and different, but after a few minutes you are disappointed. An interesting idea conceived initially cannot be developed, unfortunately. It is not because the children play badly, because the Georgian audience has got used to seeing young actors on the screen for many years. Professional or non-professional, everyone plays at the same level, neither brilliantly nor poorly. Their performance was not always natural, when it is one of the most important things for this movie, how the hero conveys the message to the audience. Their performance is completely unexplained, it is felt everywhere, in every gesture, look and action. But the biggest reason is too many cuts between shots, which makes the story seem endless. Editing is rough, which is tiring to say the least. The film has no exposition, you have to decide for yourself what, where and why is happening. It is possible that it existed in the script, but focusing on it in two words on the screen would have made the work more complete. The author probably decided to deviate from all this, consequently, saving chronometry, time and budget. The idea allowed for more dynamics, intrigue and mystery. You can't even call the end of the film open, it's just missing. The film is like a pilot episode that started somewhere in the middle and didn't end.

One of the problems of modern Georgian cinema is the dialogues, which, certainly occurred here so sharply that it is very noticeable, there are almost no dialogues, and what is there is very artificial, it cannot convey emotion to the audience, which makes the film even more difficult to perceive.

If "The Watchers" has a claim to be called a drama, then it should try to use the laws of this genre as much as possible. Drama focuses not on the plot, but on the characters’ experiences, the circumstances suggested by the plot. It is based on dramatic conflicts between the hero and the society, it has the possibility of successful conflict resolution and features acute situations that push the main characters to express their emotions. In this work, there is an attempt to do all this, although very superficially. It does not delve into the characters’ inner world, that is why it does not reach the drama. It was necessary to focus more on emotions.

The cameraman’s work should be noted. It is unusual and interesting, the only bright spot that keeps you glued to the screen until the end. The image is charming and bright, colorful, lively and wonderfully animated. The landscapes depicted in the film will surprise you. The atmosphere, the wind, the desolate landscape and the green meadows are brought to the viewer so realistically, it really leaves you feeling as if you are a part of the story along with these children.

The virtual negligence of music turned out to be a positive factor for this work. The sound of nature is heard so organically that music, in this case, would be more of a hindrance than a helper. The melody sounds only twice, that too for a few seconds.

By observing three people of different ages, we get a different perception of the story: a father who used to be a child long ago, who does not believe in ghosts, actually looks at the world, thinks that everything is the work of beasts, and goes to solve the problem; the older son, Lasha, like his father, is fond of hunting and is good with weapons. He is too young to be a man and to believe in too many fairy tales, so he takes on the responsibility of protecting his family, although he can't see the real world yet, he still believes in the depths of his heart that there must definitely be evil spirits; a younger brother, Gio still lives in fairy tales and is afraid of unknown events. Observing them, the viewer can see how a person's attitude towards this or that event changes with age. Each of us goes through the path of Gio, Lasha and their father.

Since the idea of the film is comprehensive, you expect something more spectacular and dynamic, however, you are disappointed in the finale; considering that these are the Georgian directors’ first steps, the effort is really appreciated and gives you hope that there will be more and more diversity, both in terms of genres and themes.

Teona Vekua

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