Dateline: Moscow

Review of Soviet Georgian Film Repentance

Completed 1983, Released 1987

Confession or Repentance (there was a flurry of indecision of the translation—”pokaianiya” in Russian as translated from Georgian) has Moscow cinemaphiles all abuzz. The intellectuals stammer on about symbols and significance, not-so-intellectuals and super-intellectuals yawn from incomprehension and cynicism respectively.

mb3-2 Repentance Movie Poster (small)Our heroine, a tired-looking woman who bakes cakes in the shape of churches keeps exhuming the rigid, chalky corpse of the movie’s composite meanie (Hitler mustache, Mussolini’s love of balcony speeches, Beria’s glasses, Stalin’s birthplace) and returning him to his floozy daughter-in-law and jowly son. Her message to the judge and jury is that to bury him is to accept his sicko crimes (and sanctify him with religious ritual?). Our baggy-eyed blonde wearing a hat that looks like a wedding cake tells the court that this Satan sent her daddy to a labor camp for the so-called crime of thinking a technical institute inside a churcy kind of ruined the atmosphere, as well as the icons. The henchmen (costumed in medieval armor with lances) eventually come for Mama too, and half the population.

There is absolutely nothing innovative in this film technically. Arch villain and his mafioso son are played by the same actor. Mama is Directory Tengiz Abuladze’s daughter. It is riddled with symbols and between-the-lines messages, both heavy-handed and challengingly (annoyingly?) reminiscent of the death of a Certain Person 1954 years ago. That was easy, but the last scene (an old lady who asks if this road leads to the cathedral, is told there is no cathedral and answers what good is a road if it doesn’t lead to a cathedral) features a cameo appearance of a retired Georgian actress who suffered in the purges. That took homework.

When his movie travels west, it will, and should, have Soviet studies enthusiasts in dutiful attendance and they can dicker about its political importance and play “find the hidden pictures” with it. Theologians (professional or amateur) can argue over whose confession and repentance the movie concerns and is this the beginning of a religious revival in the land of atheism. For the average popcorn muncher, this will be a tedious two hours and twenty minutes.

(Special to Magic Bullet)