Namme: An exquisite look at the conflict between tradition and modernity
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Zaza Khalvashi’s ode to an ancient way of life explores the beauty of the Georgian countryside
With a world premiere in the competition of the Tokyo International Film Festival and now screening in the Five Continents sidebar of Göteborg, before running for an award in the competition of the Sofia International Film Festival in March, Zaza Khalvashi’s Georgian film Namme [+see also:
film profile] starts with a rather familiar coming-of-age story, but infuses it with a near-magical twist. The result, aided by excellent camerawork by Georgi Shvelidze and Mamuka Chkhikvadze, is compelling and extremely good-looking.
We visit the Georgian mountains, where elderly Ali (Aleko Abishadze) is the healer of a village. In his yard, there is a healing spring, with its water rendered even more powerful by Ali’s mysterious rituals and the presence of a languid fish. We soon find out that Ali has three sons, each preferring to pursue his own career far from the healing spring, and a daughter, Namme (an excellent Mariska Diasamidze, whose stern gaze and sharp features bring to mind a very young Anamaria Marinca). For Ali, it is a given that Namme will follow in his footsteps as the village healer. For her, it’s not.
As a coming-of-age story and an ode to the countryside, Namme is rather familiar, sharing elements with many other similar stories, for example Eliza Petkova’s Zhaleika [+see also:
film profile] and Ana-Felicia Scutelnicu’s Anishoara [+see also:
film profile], to name only productions near the Black Sea. A certain naturalism, the generation gap, the disruptive, enticing appearance of a handsome man, and the use of amateur actors are common elements for these stories. But Khalvashi compensates for this by creating a personal, endearing world, which is even more compelling, as we know it will soon disappear.
Namme will make younger audiences meditate on the millennia-long dilemma: carve your own niche in the world, or just give in and fill the one that someone else has already prepared for you? Both choices have their perils and their advantages. While watching the frigid and sunny Georgian landscape on the screen, older members of the public may remember a certain village from their childhood, an invitation to ponder another favourite theme of the screenplay, the passing of time and how it alters everything.
Khalvashi is very good at creating contrasts, and the film’s technical aspects help him greatly. Through various symbols, including decorative objects in the shape of a fish, water is omnipresent in the frame. It is also omnipresent in the score, be it as the sound of rain, the sound of a river, or tiny drops of water falling from a ledge. The music of water, a symbol of something pure and eternal, is also used in contrast with the noise of intrusive, perverting industry: in one scene, as the camera moves from snow-covered hills to a building site, the sound of a river becomes the thundering of sledgehammers and various machines. It is not at all difficult to understand which side the director prefers.
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