Second-day coverage of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival with a review of the Georgian film Horizon (Horizonti)

Horizon (Horizonti)

68th Berlin International Film Festival

At the Q&A with cast and crew of Geor­gian co-pro­duc­tion Hori­zon, di­rec­tor Tinatin Ka­jr­ishvili told us she had first come up with the end­ing of her film and then worked her way back­wards to build a sto­ry that would lead to what she had in mind. Con­sid­er­ing what Hori­zon turned out to be, I feel this makes com­plete sense — and when asked by a mem­ber of the au­di­ence what the end­ing was sup­posed to mean, Ka­jr­ishvili gave an an­swer I knew I was go­ing to hear: that not even she was sure, and that it was up to the view­ers to decide.

Now, if this might sug­gest a film that wants to ex­plore am­bi­gu­i­ties and the com­plex­i­ty of feel­ings and de­ci­sions, it is sim­ply not the case. Hori­zon be­gins when a bro­ken-heart­ed man named Gior­gi (Gior­gi Bo­cho­r­ishvili) moves away from the city to a small bar­ren is­land so he can get away from his col­laps­ing mar­riage with Ana (Ia Sukhi­tashvili). As he iso­lates him­self in a cab­in by the sea, mem­o­ries creep in (along with the win­try cold) through flash­backs that let us un­der­stand why he went there. Sur­round­ed by strangers and trees, Gior­gi is caught be­tween his in­abil­i­ty to face his wife’s hap­pi­ness with some­one else and the hard­ship of be­ing alone.

The guy finds him­self com­plete­ly off his turf among peo­ple who spend most of their days drink­ing and fish­ing (he doesn’t drink or eat fish), which doesn’t help his mis­ery. Hori­zon works well in the way it ex­plores his iso­la­tion, in­vest­ing in im­mer­sive sounds of na­ture (and hunt­ing shots) around him. We can hear a timid pi­ano score but only a cou­ple of times. The film also re­lies on a beau­ti­ful cin­e­matog­ra­phy full of dark green and gray tones, and there are many evoca­tive scenes us­ing less light, es­pe­cial­ly in Giorgi’s cab­in. Lat­er on, we see the house cov­ered with snow fac­ing a frozen lake, which is a breath­tak­ing mo­ment in its placidity.

Still, even though we get to learn more about Gior­gi as flash­backs tell us how much his wife loves him (in her own way), there is some­thing else be­sides his ob­ses­sive char­ac­ter that pre­vents us from re­lat­ing to him. At first, I thought Bo­cho­r­ishvili might not be good enough to con­vey all the in­tense emo­tions that Gior­gi must be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. It’s true that the ac­tor doesn’t man­age to ex­press his con­fu­sion well enough ei­ther, but it’s not just that. There’s also a prob­lem with what the film wants to do.

We see that Gior­gi is an “old-fash­ioned guy” — an ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion that, not sur­pris­ing­ly, en­com­pass­es threat­en­ing to choke the woman he loves. He re­fus­es the “ser­vices” of an ea­ger lady at a ho­tel, turns down a job to mod­ern­ize an old build­ing, and car­ries a delu­sion­al kind of ro­man­tic hope with­in. He tries to be open to this whole mod­ern sit­u­a­tion and to see­ing Ana with an­oth­er man, but he can’t, even if he wants to start anew and is shown to be an es­sen­tial­ly good man who would jump into an icy-cold lake to save someone’s life.

There is a lot of ma­te­r­i­al here for a pro­found dra­ma, but the ac­tor doesn’t de­liv­er, and the film nev­er man­ages to de­vel­op Giorgi’s re­la­tion­ship with the folks on the is­land. We are forced to fol­low his new dull life with those dull peo­ple as though this could of­fer him any sort of pos­si­bil­i­ty, but Hori­zon takes our in­vest­ment for grant­ed, which be­comes ob­vi­ous when it tries to make us feel for the fate of an old lady we know noth­ing about.

As the plot drifts along with­out a clear di­rec­tion, it gets hard­er to care about a film that doesn’t know where it wants to go or what it wants to say, reach­ing an end that feels like a trag­ic cop-out. And that’s what makes the last scene — the director’s ini­tial idea — emp­ty and mean­ing­less, as if be­long­ing in an­oth­er movie.


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