Since Otar left

On the weekend, we went to see one of the best new films I’ve seen in quite a while–French director Julie Bertuccelli’s first feature film(her previous work has been in documentaries), Since Otar Left. It is an almost perfect film, with glorious acting, fantastic setting, great story, and it’s moving yet so unsentimental it makes you glow inside.
I was very attracted by this film anyway because it’s about three generations of Georgian (that’s as in Georgia, Caucasus, ex-Soviet-Union) women, whose family has a long imaginative connection with France. Not only am I French, but through my artist sister Camille, I know several Georgians, living in France(some illegally, like Otar in the film).Many of them are great artists, like the wonderful sculptor Djoti Bjalava, who frequently exibits with my sister, and their extraordinary life stories and that of their country has been intensely fascinating to me. (I have a very soft spot for and a great deal of interest in, all the countries of the ex-Soviet Union, actually.) The warmth, vitality and yet the violence, confusion and corruption of Georgian life is something that came out strongly for me in the stories of all my sister’s friends–and it’s something that comes out strongly in Since Otar Left.

Since Otar left tells the story of grandmother Eka (played by the extraordinary 90 year old Polish actress Esther Gorintin, who was a former dental technician and only became an actress at the tender age of 85!); mother Marina(played by the beautiful, intelligent Georgian actress Nino Khomassoundze) and daughter Ada(played by the intense, lovely Russian actress Dinara Droukarova), who eke out a difficult life in present-day, chaotic, confused Georgia. Eka lives for the letters and phone calls of her son Otar; the long-suffering Marina finds it hard to compete with her absent brother, and the intense and rather truculent Ada tries to reconcile the gap between the other two women while living her own life. The three women are held by a bond of love, and by their shared existence in the dilapidation of Tbilisi, the beautiful but crumbling capital set in the Caucasus Mountains. Then one day, when Eka is away at the family dacha in the country, tragedy strikes–Marina receives an appalling phone call from Paris. Otar has been killed. But how can they ever tell Eka?
And so begins a long succession of deception and lies told for love, which slowly reach a most astonishing yet totally believable climax. The director has said she based it on a true story she heard from some Georgians, and the film certainly feels intensely real, beautifully textured. Georgia itself–both Tbilisi and the countryside–feature extensively in the movie, and the whole thing gave me once again a huge desire to go there. My sister Camille spent several months there–and like everyone I’ve met who’s ever been to the place, fell totally in love with it, despite its many ghastly discomforts and problems. Djoti and his family have offered to take us there and show us around–think we’ll take them up on that in the not too distant future!
So, if you haven’t seen it, make sure you do. Even if you have no Georgian connections, this is a truly special, marvellous film, a family drama of the utmost tenderness and reality.
If you want to read more, have a look at the official
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Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I haven’t seen it Sophie but I certainly will, based on your recommendation.

Have we done the list thing to death, or can we do best films now?

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

I did do a ‘best of’ films back in the mists of TRoppo time, Rob, but I’m happy to do another–maybe even on the dullest films, too!

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

James Cameron’s Titanic would get my vote as the dullest film ever. I actually cheered as Leonardo di whatsit disappeared into the icy green deeps.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Rob you are apalling! I really cried, I sobbed. That is Rob, a sacred Hollywood moment you are dismissing . There will be retibution. A sequel…Horseridin’ Rose, and another, The Spittin’ Girl and finally Coney Island Dreamin’

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Well, to make it worse, jen, a friend of mine who shares my view of this ghastly film said she wished the other one (Kate thingy) had gone down with him as well.