“There are three types of judgment: scientific, religious, and poetic. Myths, in my view, cover all three aspects of judgment. Therefore, the model of mythological judgment is a universal form of knowledge of the world” – this quote is read by one of the characters in the film “Namme” (2017) and makes the peculiarity of the film's artistic language fully understandable. Director Zaza Khalvashi combines all three types of knowledge of the world in his work. Religion is introduced in the category of faith, science – in the form of ecology, and poetry – is the story itself and the visual-physical solution of the film.
The microcosm in which the director sets the film is both real and mystical at the same time.
Somewhere in the mountains, in a river ravine, in a village, there live a father and daughter. The father's name is Ali, and the daughter's name is Namme. In their yard, in a pond, lives a magical fish. Water also has a miraculous power – people are cured by its drops, and a dying person is revived. Namme and Ali perform the mystical fire descending ritual. The father wears a white long shirt, and the daughter is dressed in a black dress and shawl. At night, they stand by the pool in the yard. Namme sprinkles salt on its edges, and the father carries a bowl with embers over it. Then he blows into these ambers, and the torch attached to the tree catches fire. This means that order reigns in the world and that man has not lost his connection with God, the cosmos. Villagers are witnesses of this miracle. For us, the viewers, a mystical, almost pagan ritual is ordinary, but a vitally essential action for them. They know that father and daughter are gifted with supernatural talents. This is an unconditional fact that no one doubts. Namme and Ali are mediators between humans and the cosmos. Villagers calmly returned from the ritual walk to the lake bank with lighted torches in their hands. In the background is heard, "The Merciful God is one, sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s sunny. Though we are still loathed by everyone."
“Namme” is Zaza Khalvashi's thought turned into a film, silent, deep, and comprehensive. The director’s worldview is super-religious. He favors a world in which different confessions coexist peacefully, because “the merciful God is one.” In this world, a person feels like an integral part of the boundless cosmos, and this harmonious unity determines his spiritual peace.
The origin of religion and science is common – the cosmos. The father has a connection with the cosmos. A teacher, a priest, and a mullah preach in school, church, and mosque. The old man does not need a special building for his parish; his temple is nature, the vast cosmos. Ali is the guardian of miraculous water and magical fish. He knows the secret of life. He shares this knowledge with his children by means of water. Drinking water is also a kind of ritual – the last drop is poured on the palm of the hand and rubbed on the forehead.
The film is not an assertion of the superiority of any one religion, rather it emphasizes faith as the basic driving force of man. This faith helps the priest build a church, although the congregation is nowhere to be seen. Because of his faith, Mullah sits in the mosque and waits for the worshipers, who still do not appear. Because of faith, the teacher teaches the only disciple. Faith gives Namme and the old father the power to heal people. By faith, the torch is flamed and by faith, the water becomes the healer.
Apart from Namme, Ali has three sons – one is a teacher, the second is a mullah, and the third is a priest. Scientists and representatives of different religions are brothers, children of one father. They coexist in one space. This is the environment where the different sounds of namāz and church bells blend together in unison, a sign of the Theosophical truth that “the merciful God is one.”
Of the four children, only Namme follows her father's steps. She has also acquired the great mystery, and is ordained by the Lord. She also understands the language of water and fish, she has a special connection with the cosmos too, she can also perform a sacred ritual and ignite a torch. Her supernatural character is further reinforced by the ability to walk on the lake surface. No matter how strange it is, the audience is not surprised to see this miracle. On the contrary, is waiting for it.
Namme and the fish are the same spirit manifested in different forms. The director points to this unity several times. In the beginning, the fish lies motionless in a bowl full of water on the snow-covered ground. There is complete peace all around. Namme seems to revive the fish with a stroke of her hand and releases it into the stone pool. Namme seems to be a fish having acquired human form. On the edge of the bowl of water, in which there is a magical fish, the father slides his hands down, as if protecting the fish from the outside world and from prying eyes. So does he protect Namme from others and comfort her: “Don't be afraid, you will get used to it too, the fish is all the same, it does not grow, it does age, it has never had another one to match, and the water is completely clean in good weather and in bad weather.” There is an invisible emotional bond between fish and Namme. When love comes to Namme and the peace of mind is disturbed, the fish also loses its peace, cannot find a place, and tries to jump out of the bowl. When Namme is faced with a dilemma and hesitates, the fish lies on the snowy ground and thrashes about.
Namme constantly weaves fish with a metal wire, as if creating self-portraits. The fish are of different shapes and all frameless. The fish appears in the frame only when a young man enters Namme's life. The incompatibility of supernatural talent, commitment, and love limits Namme's freedom. Before the final episode, Namme hangs the new framed fish artwork on the wall and silently says goodbye to her father and brothers standing in front of her. She breaks the frames and becomes part of the space, she takes the fish with her and sets it free.
The production designer, Akaki Jashi, the cameramen, Giorgi Shvelidze and Mamuka Chkhikvadze, were able to create a mystical and real environment at the same time. For them, the image is not an end in itself, the visual follows the narrative. The expressive and vocal sequences complement each other and create a single dramaturgical fabric. The composition of the shot, color, lighting are as plain and calm as the rhythm of the narration.
The sound sequence of the film is built on the contrast of silence and noise and has an important function in the dramatic plot.
Water is the main element of the film, and the story mainly revolves around it. Damming up the river and building a dam on it has a negative effect on the water. The director hints at this influence with an audiovisual solution. Visually, the water changes color during the exposition, it turns white. The calm sound of a discolored river is mixed with the sustained sound of a single chord that evokes the association of buzzing electrical wires. It brings anticipation of anxiety. This chord will be heard several more times during the course of the film. The noise of the construction of the dam, which is heard in the form of a fragment at the beginning, gradually becomes stronger during the course of the film, chases the silence from the buildings, and in the finale, it sounds aggressively and the construction site occupies the entire shot. Such changes eventually lead to the disappearance of healing water. This fact is the beginning of a tragic course of events. Water is disappearing, life is in danger of destruction, because the knowledge that man perceived from nature is being lost. Losing the connection with the cosmos means losing this knowledge, or rather, no one needs this knowledge anymore, since man has switched onto material well-being and does not coexist with nature, but fights against it. People make a choice on “cultivating the physical capabilities of the world, that is, modernizing those capabilities that are sufficient to achieve human external well-being.”
The final shot of the film shows the construction of a hydroelectric power station, whose deafening noise disrupts the existing peace and order. No one remembers anymore that “development exists only when spiritual and physical capabilities are synchronized.” This knowledge disappears, the cosmos takes it back, the lake is a kind of door to another world. Namme releases the magic fish into the lake, frees it and mixes it with the transparent ether, but before that, she utters a spell for the frightened: “Ashina, Mashina, what scared you? Was it a biped? Was it a quadruped? Did the beast scare you? Was it a loafer? Did an evil spirit scare you? What spirit scared you? What person scared you? Everyone was going their own way, what frightened you?” The cosmos silently watches the self-destruction of man. God is still silent.
Artists have developed intuition. They sense and anticipate the future and warn us of impending dangers with their creativity. “Namme” is Zaza Khalvashi's thought about the future, what awaits us when we, focused on material well-being, begin to disrupt the existing order in the world, in the name of progress, we organize technological sabotage against the nature that sheltered us, clothed us, fed us. We deny the existence of a divine beginning and cut off the connection with infinity, as a result we get noise instead of silence, anxiety takes the place of peace, faith is replaced by disbelief and uncertainty. The process has already started. We have to choose.
PHD in Art Criticism (Film Studies)