Perfectly mounted slice of life works both as a snapshot of Georgian lower depths and as an emblematic study of post-Soviet existence. No-budget, no-tears treatment makes this an austere item to sell, but “The Lake” could travel fest path laid by Iranian cinema, which it resembles more than it does Russian.
Literate effort starts with furious villagers beating a man to death alongside a pastoral lake, as his helpless teenage son watches. Incident is never explained, but Zura (Dimitri Svelidze) and his haunted-looking mother (Nina Koberdze) soon move to the relatively large Tbilisi, where they rent a cold-water flat from a gruff Russian. At school, Zura seeks out the leader of a local gang and pummels his way into the job. The kids can’t stand him, but they submit to his whims — until he takes pity on a not-too-bright fat boy, and then decides to give him the power, with puzzling and destructive results. Plain-looking, well acted (by mostly non-pros) study is a wise meditation on power and the traumas that inform even its lesser dynamics.