Tinatin Gurchiani’s accomplished first feature “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” offers an impressionistic, somewhat poetical view of current life in her native former Soviet territory. Those already well-versed in Georgia’s recent history will get the most from a series of real-life character sketches occasionally cryptic for their lack of contextualizing explanation. But the docu’s ample human interest and handsome lensing, despite much visual evidence of a struggling economy, will hold interest for most viewers. This North American pickup for distrib Icarus Films looks commercially iffy, but the pic should score artscaster sales and bolster the helmer’s next career move.
Gurchiani, as a film-school graduation project, advertised for anyone aged 15 to 25 to try out for a film “about young people.” All sorts of folk turned up, both younger and considerably older. It soon becomes clear these auditions are an end in themselves, as the helmer asks her nervous subjects variably playful and probing questions about themselves, in some cases then traveling to see their lives first-hand.
Among those profiled are a 13-year-old boy who tends corn and cows for his family; the 25-year-old governor of a rural district whose constituents average age is 70, all offspring having left for what they hope are better prospects; a jobless young man addicted to online poker; and a teenager who sells his beloved livestock outside his own village because it would make his heart ache to witness their fate.
Among women, there’s an earnestly idealistic aspiring scientist; an erstwhile party animal now glad an unplanned pregnancy changed her priorities; and another clubgoer so “tired of everything” that when asked hypothetically what she’d do with a titular machine, she says she’d make herself disappear.
The stories related gradually get longer and more dramatic. We follows handsome young Gotcha, whose military career was derailed by an arrest, as he visits friends and relatives, begging them to maintain communication and give hope to a brother rotting in prison.
The final segment is the sole problematic one, as its pretty young interviewee, Tako, confesses she is a trained actress; the reunion she orchestrates with the mother who’d abandoned her long ago looks a little too much like an excuse for her to run the gamut of oncamera histrionics.
Decrepit buildings and tales of individual woe (including fleeing the 1992-93 civil war in regional Abkhazia) suggest a high national level of everyday hardship, which is somehow countered by the beauty of the countryside, with both evocatively captured by Andreas Bergmann’s delicate color lensing.