68th Berlin International Film Festival — Day 2
2) Horizon, or Horizonti (Georgia/Sweden, 2018)
During the Q&A with cast and crew of Georgian co-production Horizon by Tinatin Kajrishvili – whose directorial debut Brides had been nominated for the Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale in 2014 – she told us she had come up with the ending of the film and then worked her way backwards to create a story that would lead to that point. Considering what Horizon turned out to be, this makes complete sense; and, when asked by a member of the audience what the ending was supposed to mean, she gave us an answer that I was certain I was going to hear: that not even she is sure, and that it is up to the viewers to decide.
Now, if this could indicate a film that dwells on ambiguities and understands the complexity of feelings and decisions, this unfortunately is not the case here. Horizon begins when a broken-hearted man called Giorgi (Giorgi Bochorishvili) leaves the city to get away from his collapsing marriage with Ana (Ia Sukhitashvili). As he isolates himself in a small barren island, in a cabin by the sea, memories creep in (along with the wintery cold) in flashbacks that let us know 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.
Giorgi sees himself completely out of his turf among people who spend most of the day drinking and fishing (he doesn’t drink or eat fish), which doesn’t help his misery. The film works quite well in the way it explores his isolation, investing mostly in diegetic, immersive sounds of the nature and hunting shots around him (we can hear a timid piano score only twice), and relying on a beautiful cinematography full of tones of dark green and gray. There are many evocative scenes using less light as well, especially in Giorgi’s cabin, and later a shot of the place covered with snow before a frozen lake which is absolutely breathtaking in its placidity.
But still, even though we learn more and more about Giorgi and what ails him as flashbacks tell us how much his wife loves him (not as a husband but as a member of the family, despite being forced to take some measures to keep him away once he begins to stalk her), there is something else besides his obsessive character that prevents us from relating to him. At first, I thought it was because Bochorishvili is not good enough an actor to convey all the intense emotions that Giorgi must be experiencing (in fact, he is not able to express his confusion well enough either), but it is not only that. There is 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, extends to threatening to choke the woman he loves (oh “l’amour fou,” right?) He refuses the “services” of an eager lady in a hotel, turns down a job to modernize an old building and carries inside the kind of romantic hope that is basically delusional (“I knew you would come,” he says to Ana when she shows up to beg him to return). He tries to be open to this 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 deep drama, but the actor doesn’t deliver and the film never manages to develop Giorgi’s relationship with the folks in the island. We are forced to follow his new boring life with those boring people as if this could offer him any sort of possibility, but the fact is that Horizon takes for granted our investment, which becomes evident 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 is what sadly makes the last scene (the director’s first idea) empty and meaningless as if it actually belonged in another movie.
February 17, 2018