You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘House of Others’

Rusudan Glurjidze's semi-autobiographical debut.

Zurab Magalashvili, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Ia Sukhitashvili, Salome Demuria, Ekaterine Japaridze, Branko Djurich, Alexander Khundadze, Malkhaz Jorbenadze. (Georgian, Russian dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5132448/

An exquisite, evocative and elusive tale of abandonment and the psychological scars of war, “House of Others” is, incredibly, the first feature from Georgian director Rusudan Glurjidze. Betraying none of a neophyte’s unsteadiness, and orchestrating the outstanding work from each below-the-line department like a virtuoso, Glurjidze’s formal boldness yields an effect that is subtle, strange and silvery. It’s a sorrowful tale, rendered in intimate miniature, about victor’s guilt and the occupation of conquered lands by the conquerors, set in a very specific and authentically realized time and place. But it’s perhaps closest in mood to a ghost story, one in which the haunters frequently become the haunted.

Inspired by the director’s own experiences, the film opens in the 1990s, “after the war,” as a small family — father Astamur (Zurab Magalashvili), his wife, son and young daughter — rattles up a rainy hillside in rural Georgia in a jeep with a cracked windshield. They’re being driven by Ginger (Malkhaz Jorbenadze), a shady opportunist profiting by relocating families to a remote village abandoned by its inhabitants as the conflict approached. The mother, Liza (Olga Dykhovichnaya), looks out with a pinched and anxious face, clutching her daughter to her as Ginger extols the virtues of their new home: the beauty of the landscape and the sweetness of the thin-skinned tangerines that grow in abundance all around.

Their arrival, to a house full of the previous occupant’s furniture, is observed through binoculars by Ira (the striking Salome Demuria), a woman of militaristic bearing who lives in a bigger house higher up the hill with her widowed sister Azida (Ia Sukhitashvili) and her teenage niece Nata (Ekaterine Japaridze). They are the new arrivals’ only neighbors, but while Nata and the boy Leo (Sandro Khundadze) will become playmates (and Leo will develop a puppyish crush on the older girl) the man-hating Ira, who still practices arcane military drills and can shoot a tangerine off a faraway tree branch, remains hostile and hawklike.

Popular on Variety

From this simple setup, a film of deepening strangeness and enlarging beauty develops. Gorka Gómez Andreus’ camerawork is breathtaking, pictorially shot in the Academy ratio, with Dutch-master lighting illuminating cluttered interiors (the production design is both intricate and authentic) and subtle camera movement building a mood of pensive, melancholic unease. Without ever compromising on realism, the gliding camera catches single images that feel like they ought to hang in a gallery: a woman standing with her back to us, leaning against a post with the sole of one shoe showing; a man sitting near a window through which the directional light of a Vermeer painting slants; a pan across a cluttered table that looks momentarily like a Cezanne still life; a couple having sex in a grove of tangerine trees as the camera silently retreats. This last is a frequent device, and the many shots that pull back steadily from the action give an air of ongoing finality, as if every conversation here is a conclusion, every moment an ending. Glurjidze is delivering her film as an elegy.

There are mysterious allusions and recurring images throughout: mirrors and windows and a sensual attention to the details of fabric and clothing, despite their apparent plainness. There’s a woman in black peasant garb who may be a literal ghost, witnessed in wonder by a bewitched Astamur. There’s elliptical discussion about the village and its vanished people that stands as allegory for any country riven by a recent civil war. And there’s a strong element of sexual envy and gender mistrust, from the men who flirt with young Nata, their submachine guns slung casually against their hips, unaware a scornful Ira is reading their lips from far away, to Aditza bluntly seducing Ginger and then promptly telling him it will be the last time — which incidentally happens just after her daughter Nata gives Leo the kiss he’s longed for and also tells him it won’t happen again. It seems the tangerine does not fall too far from the tree.

But then this is a film about sins inherited, about guilt passed down and anguish that lingers long after the anguished have left. Thematically, and sometimes visually too, it recalls Bergman or Tarkovsky, but it is also its own quiet thing, evoking a suffocating sorrow that has seeped into the very walls and causes the interlopers to speak in whispers, though they don’t know why. It is enigmatic and opaque and does not give up its secrets easily, and to some that might prove frustrating. But though occasionally the Bergmanian aura of doom teeters near to precious, as characters talk to each other but look away out of rainy windows, for the most part, the film earns these moments honestly, out of the truly artistic impulse to communicate the inexpressible. An emphatic, astonishing debut from a fascinating new director, “House of Others” summons a world where war is ended but not over and where you can live in a house that is still, and forever will be, someone else’s home.

Film Review: 'House of Others'

Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 4 2016. Running time: 102 MIN. (Original title: “Skhvisi sakhli”)  

Production: (Georgia-Russia-Spain-Croatia) A Cinetech Film Production, in association with Liga Production, Kinoscopik, SARKE Group, Embrio. (Sales: Tatofilm, Kiev, Ukraine.) Produced by Zurab Magalashvili, Nadezhda Gorshkova, Katerina Gecmen-Waldeck. Co-producers, Gorka Gomez Andreu, Imanol Gomez De Segura, Dario Domitrovic.

Crew: Directed by Rusudan Glurjidze. Screenplay, Glurjidze, David Chubinishvili. Camera (color, HD), Gorka Gómez Andreu; editor, Grigol Palavandishvili, Dmitri Chistyakov, Levan Koukhashvili; music, Dusan Maksimovsky, Alexey Vorobyov; production designer, Grigol Mikeladze; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Dario Domitrovic; assistant director, Alexander Glurjidze.

With: Zurab Magalashvili, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Ia Sukhitashvili, Salome Demuria, Ekaterine Japaridze, Branko Djurich, Alexander Khundadze, Malkhaz Jorbenadze. (Georgian, Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • Macao Project Market Participants

    ‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

    Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao. “Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

  • Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly

    Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly Focusing on Genre Films and Series

    2019 has been an excellent year for films from Africa and the Middle East, with a higher presence in A-list festivals, and kudos for films such as Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The “new wave” of Arab and African cinema includes a small group of films that explore links with [...]

  • Producer Said Hamich on 'Zanka Contact,'

    Producer Said Hamich on Atlas Workshop Winner 'Zanka Contact,' Upcoming Projects

    Two projects from Franco-Moroccan producer Saïd Hamich won big at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshop this year, with the upcoming Kamal Lazraq-directed feature “Les Meutes” nabbing a development prize and the recently wrapped “Zanka Contact” winning an $11,000 post-production grant. “Zanka Contact” director Ismaël El Iraki was on-hand to present 10 minutes of footage, [...]

  • Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key

    Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key in Promoting Films From the Arab World, Africa

    Looking back at the lineups of key festivals such as Cannes and Venice this year, 2019 stands out as a banner year for movies from the African continent and the Arab world. During a panel hosted at the Netflix-sponsored industry event Atlas Workshops during the Marrakech Film Festival, Rémi Bonhomme, who works at Cannes’ Critics’ [...]

  • Robert RedfordRobert Redford tribute, 18th Marrakech

    Robert Redford Talks About Potential Next Film, U.S. Politics, Life Philosophy

    During a 90-minute onstage conversation at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he received an honorary tribute, Robert Redford spoke about his life-long quest for truth and freedom, and his political engagement through films, as well as a long-gestating project he’s considering producing, despite having announced his retirement. When he has spoken about the project, “109 [...]

  • For Sama SXSW Cannes Documentary

    'For Sama' Wins Best Feature at International Documentary Association Awards

    Syrian Civil War diary “For Sama” has won the best feature award from the International Documentary Association for Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The award was presented by Frances Fisher on Saturday night at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The first-time award for Best Director went to Steven Bognar and Julia [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content