A few years ago, a new voice was suddenly heard in a new Georgian film. A new person appeared: Alexandre Koberidze, who, with his second full-length film, "What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?" (with his own script, a co-production of Sakdoc Film, Georgia, and DFFB, Germany, financed by the National Film Center and other organizations), captured the attention of the entire film world.
The young director made the film (in contrast to "Let the Summer Never Come Again," which was shot on a phone in 2017) with a professional camera, together with professional Iranian cameraman Faraz Fesharaki, professional German gaffer Moritz Friese, professional composer Giorgi Koberidze, and professional and non-professional actors.
"What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?" is not a film built on a traditional plot. It has its own rules of dramaturgy and individual development. The action takes place in the city of Kutaisi. in a familiar but different Kutaisi. With fragments of the lives of the town and its people - the real, the fictitious, the imaginary, the exaggerated - you can't go past Rezo Gabriadze and Rezo Cheishvili here. You will surely come across Titian and Paolo, as well as the Ishkhneli sisters, Imeretian songs, the Public Gardens, the Balakhvani neighborhood, the #2 public school, and Khvamli Mountain, as well. Of course, there's also the White Bridge, and the Rioni River, for certain. The river, like the town, is a reality and a metaphor for the flow of time and life. Everything that exists or used to exist and continues its existence follows its waves.
And the story begins with a meeting. The couple, Lisa (Oliko Barbakadze, later Ani Karseladze) and Giorgi (Giorgi Ambroladze, later Giorgi Bochorishvili), fall in love with a chance encounter and at first sight (though hidden from the audience, as only the fatally fallen book, legs, and hands are visible in the shot). With a flash of light, as it happens when love begins - the main and exciting episode in all love stories - very soon, the beautiful but doomed to banality story changes, and the film's genre, course of events, and essence are transferred to a new form, dimension, and strange space.
Soon, through love, talking inanimate creatures get involved in action, and reality loses its contours, changing into the reality of a fairy tale. A small sapling, a water pipe, and a surveillance camera inform Lisa about the curse of the owner of the evil eye. Only the breeze is unable to say what is to be said - a warning - and the next morning Lisa and Giorgi wake up with a changed appearance. They have changed so much that they can no longer recognize each other, and no one can recognize them anymore. They lose themselves and their professions, but they keep waiting and looking for each other. Even when fate brings them to work in a cafe near the White Bridge and they get to know each other again.
The theme of love follows the film as a leitmotif (although it often disappears, vanishes), and like parts of a mosaic, other stories, other meetings, other events are added to it. Light, almost imperceptible humor and charm, sadness of separation or loss, memories, and dramatic scenes are mixed together, and once again the border between reality, imagination, invention, and what is "seen" by the director's "inner" gaze is blurred.
Little by little, the magic of imagination begins to work on its own, like a spell that slowly captures, drags, and sets you on fire. You are naive and believe in fairy tales and dreams. If you believe by itself, and even if you don't. You will believe what you let yourself believe. But as soon as you try to explain and clarify, you enter a dead end. You also change and don't recognize yourself anymore. Neither do you recognize your own face.
Here you can hear the chirping of birds and children’s chatter going to school or home, the sounds of the town, and exaggerated noises. Birds, stray dogs, a street corner, a piece of asphalt, houses, unlaced shoes, shoes, feet, coins on the counter and the hand that takes them, and T-shirts thrown down in the corner can "accidentally" appear in the shot; bars, a barbed wire fence, a branch of musk dropped on a table, a cake, a cheese pie, corridors and classrooms of a music school, sports halls, and fields; flying into the sky and then into the flooded and muddy Rioni River; a polka-dot ball moving along with the current for a long time, the one that children dropped into it (somewhere near the white stones. Perhaps, even somewhere else). As if insignificant things and details that are part of life and what fills it up make up life.
It's the time of the World Cup Championship in football, and just like all over the world, in Kutaisi too, the café near the White Bridge is waiting for the first fans, with the initiative and efforts of the owner (Vakhtang Panchulidze). However, Kutaisi fans gather at the Red Bridge, traditionally. Others flock to the back of the theater, also following the old custom. Here, dogs also have favorite, chosen places where they watch football, go to bars, and date each other. And both boys and girls play football, and this line, like a love story, along with the stages of championship matches, runs through the entire film as a piercing action.
And in the university garden, as the "insertions" inform us, a sad man to tears was chewing a lilac. And Levan Chelidze, as it is incidentally written in the subtitle, once came across La Gioconda in Kutaisi market; she was selling greens. As a rule, nothing surprises us in Kutaisi anyway.
The director enjoys observing the flow of life, meditates, and "plays" as he wants. He never gets out of his "role" and forces the audience to join in the game, which has its own rules, laws, and places. His magic works and solves problems in these spaces. It has its own coordinate system. In this world, you can enter from wherever you want and exit from wherever and whenever you want. Alexandre Koberidze does not follow the laws and established rules. And this is the main secret of the film's artistic and cinematic magic. No juggling—with the coquetry of shots, angles, visual-plastic, or montage solutions, ways of creating external effects One way, one perspective, one direction, and one form are enough to capture such a diverse and varied life. And Alexandre Koberidze does change the angle, method, and shooting points. He replaces the camera's movement and lines up with the cameraman. Not colorful or monochrome, but a lively pictorial image with its sfumatos and distinct, light-accented details, light shadows, compositional balance, and emphasized asymmetry.
Faraz Fesharaki also freely "plays" with the camera, lets it travel, and does not linger. Then he stops it and shoots from a single, fixed point (as they used to shoot before filmmakers "learned" camera movement). He shows how the town gets empty at night, gets crowded in the morning, and then fills up again the next day. He diligently, "without taking his eyes off," persistently fixes the street, people, or some seemingly insignificant details, and this is how the action and time pass. The cameraman and the director seem to be playing football themselves, kicking the ball, calling each other, and throwing it into the net. They use slow motion, fade out, transition from frame to frame, dissolves, and the vertigo effect. The focus is lost and changed. Under the different lighting (natural and artificial) created by Moritz Frieze, everyone and everything look different. With these creative manipulations," the dimensions, scales, borders, and texture of the space change. By corresponding narrative and image, moving into parallel space and possibly parallel time.
Giorgi Koberidze's music is a separate story. At first, it seems to be "timid," heard with small fragments and beats, then it becomes stronger, becomes active, and no longer "pays attention" to anything. It changes frequently, from the original to famous, authentic, and arranged tunes. It can be organic, asynchronous, and contrasting for the image, action, and frame; major, expressive, minor, of different genres and forms. It can develop different themes and harmonies. Sometimes it covers all voices, covers everything. Sometimes it drowns itself in complete silence and drowns everything. What we can't see or hear - maybe we can't even feel - music tells and gives rise to new sensations, thoughts, and attitudes.
Alexandre Koberidze turns the passage of life into the borders of the screen, creating a screen imitation of the continuity of real time and setting up personal barriers. He completely frees the internal on-screen movement, process, and time dimension and seems to follow/obey its flow. He gets the exact time - whether it's summer or late spring. Or both. It gets dark and lights up several times. However, the general duration of internal time is still unknown.
"What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?" is a visual, plastic, physical expression of the stream of consciousness. The image of life as the connection and reflections of the elements of land, sky, and water - on the ground, in the sky, and in the river. Rhythm of life, dynamics Maybe, depending on the author's very personal, individual tempo-rhythm, character, and temperament. It's another story. Told differently, said differently. Shown differently. Which exposes many hidden or uncovered thoughts. Which strips away passions, feelings, and insensitivity, and life itself.
Whether it is the narrator beyond the camera (Alexandre Koberidze's voice) or an ancient coryphaeus, the style of the narration, like the fragmentation of the image, is limited to short, occasionally included comments, calm, emotionless, unperturbed, simple, and short phrases. Dialogues are also like this. They are short. Only with the necessary word explanations and maybe not even with the content. It is a statement of fact and nothing else.
And suddenly, now as always, completely unexpectedly, a new thing to say, a new problem, a new flow emerges in the narrator's text, and the sound of the film and the main message of the director's position change again. That "true" reality is starting to activate. There is a turn toward asking rhetorical questions to oneself and a piercing look at society; the question refers to ethics, responsibility, duty, what is happening in these cruel times, and how we will respond in the future. And you, right from this exciting moment, start thinking, looking for answers to the questions: What am I doing today? Am I silent? Am I making noise? Do I care? And you also start thinking about whether Alexandre Koberidze’s film is about love or only about the fact of its existence or the desire to exist? Does it end happily or not so happily? Is it an ordinary story or an extraordinary one?
If you accept this conditionality and go with the flow, you will believe that everything has happened, that it may or may not happen, and that there are no answers to this/such questions. Otherwise, everything would be a lie, something fabricated and fake. Neither modern cinema nor the modern world has ready-made schemes and frames, or ready-made and empty expectations.
Due to the intervention of the evil eye and the curse into the events, Lisa and Giorgi first lost each other and then found each other with the power of cinematic magic, but the director immediately forgot about them. He said goodbye at the crossroads and turned the course of the film once again, without them, in another direction and into another space. Everything ended with a scene of footballer children running up the steep stairs in the parallel street above, or perhaps towards the heavens to conquer the heights, who are watched by David the Builder’s statue, holding a sword and a model of the Gelati cathedral.
The sky is full of imprints of our lives, full of reflections. Some people don't look at the sky at all; others can't or don't notice anything in it. If we look even for a second, we will see ourselves, many other people, and our own lives. We will find and feel a lot. The sky always and everywhere watches us and sees us.
"There is one particular movement of air in Kutaisi: it is not the wind anymore, but it is not the breeze yet. It smells like glycerin; it's warm; it's empty; it's too polite. If it were up to me, I would name her Liziko Gabunia and enroll her in the Faculty of French Language at Kutaisi Pedagogical Institute. And without exams. I tipped my hat to the wind; she walked past me, pretending she didn't recognize me; she played with her earring on the corner of the street; and still, she glanced at me and disappeared." Rezo Gabriadze.

Lela Ochiauri,

PHD in Art Criticism (Film Studies),

full professor

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