Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Germany/Georgia/United Kingdom/France, 2000. British Screen Productions, Canal+, Egoli Films, Egoli Tossell Pictures, Eurimages, Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Moco Films, Studio 99 Filmproduktion, Studio Babelsberg Independents, WAVEpictures. Screenplay by Nana Dzhordzhadze, Irakli Kvirikadze. Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. Produced by Oliver Damian, Jens Meurer. Music by Goran Bregovic. Production Design by Vaja Jalagania, Teimuraz Khmaladze, Irakli Kvirikadze, Phedon Papamichael. Costume Design by Larissa Djordjadze. Film Editing by Vessela Martschewski.
A village in Georgia has no idea what’s coming its way when a fourteen year-old girl named Sibylla (Nutsa Kukhianidze) gets off a bus to visit her aunt; the capricious tone of the film is set by the bus itself, whose brakes fail and require passengers to jump off as it does loops around the town square. Free-spirited and unconventional, Sibylla thinks nothing of bathing nude in front of strangers or wandering through town barefoot following furtive lovers and witnessing their secrets, immediately becoming enamored of local astronomer Alexander (Evgeniy Sidikhin) and setting her sights on getting into the forty year-old man’s bed. Alexander takes no notice of this child, but his son Mickey (Shalva Iashvili) falls in love with her, pursuing her everywhere as she observes, like a nomadic, uninterested camera, the romantically eccentric happenings in their town: a ship is wheeled through the streets after being rescued from the bottom of the sea, a screening at the local theatre of Emmanuelle (starring Silvia Kristel, a sequence highly reminiscent of the La Dolce Vita screening in Divorce Italian Style) sets the town ablaze with desire (and, for some, moral indignation), and the volatile sex life of a military soldier and his amorously vibrant wife involves secrets and betrayals.
The beautiful production design and costumes seem to intentionally set the film in no particular time period, the inclusion of Emmanuelle (from 1974) suggests a decade but nothing else does, which lends an almost fairy-tale like flavour to a story that is guided more by Felliniesque whimsy than a need for character development. It’s only in the final moments that anything approaching a moral is dictated, when Sibylla finally makes her big move and it results in unforeseen consequences, but she doesn’t seem to learn anything from her careless actions…in fact, the character’s indifference to taking things in is what keeps this film from being more satisfying, she’s not there to observe or be enlightened, she’s just a careless appetite that goes around taking things, expressing herself in low, guttural and offhanded tones and completely devoid of a spark. As a result, the efforts of Phedon Papamichael’s beautiful cinematography and a host of superb actors in supporting roles feel wasted on a central premise that doesn’t deserve them, it’s a lot like director Nana Dzhordzhadze’s A Chef In Love but without the political element. Despite these drawbacks and a weak ending, though, it’s a pleasant distraction and one that does not overstay its welcome.
European Film Award Nomination: Best Screenplay