House of Others: New ghosts replacing the old
by Vladan Petkovic
- KARLOVY VARY 2016: The ranks of distinctive voices in Georgian cinema have just been joined by debutant Rusudan Glurjidze
Cineuropa has been writing in superlatives about Georgian filmmakers for some time now: Levan Koguashvili, George Ovashvili, Tinatin Kajrishvili, Nana Evtimishvili, Zaza Urushadze and others have put the cinema of the Caucasus country firmly on the map. Now, in Karlovy Vary's East of the West section, we have been introduced to another distinctive new voice: first-time director Rusudan Glurjidze and her cryptic, atmospheric, strangely emotional and eerie film House of Others [+see also:
interview: Rusudan Glurjidze
The set-up is simple, if we avoid nationalities – and they are really the least important part of this story. In the Georgian region of Abkhazia in the 1990s, a war has ended and many houses have been deserted, with families from the losing side leaving and being replaced with families of "victorious" origin. Switches like this are executed by shady characters, half-soldiers, half-criminals, who have been granted authority over certain regions, such as Ginger (Malxaz Gorbenadze), who brings a family consisting of husband Astamur (Zurab Magalashvili), his wife Liza (Olga Dykhovichnaya), their ten-year-old son Leo (Sandro Khundadze) and their small daughter to a house in a remote village.
In the neighbouring house lives another family: two sisters, Ira (Salome Demuria) and Azida (Ia Sukhitashvili), and Azida's teenage daughter, Nata (Ekaterina Japhardze). The women first try to evaluate the newcomers by watching them through binoculars, owned by Ira, who is "the man of the house" here – she sports short hair and uniform-like outfits, shoots tangerines in the orchard flawlessly with her rifle, can read lips and is hostile to men in general.
Although the other family nominally has a father, he is more like a shadow. Not only does Astamur have no initiative or decisive spirit, but he seems to be a broken man who just floats from room to room. So it is Liza who would be running the place, if the world of this film functioned like the real, physical one around us.
The characters in the film do get to interact in meaningful ways, but it is more their state that is described here thanks to the authentic locations and incredibly creative use of camera and lightning by Spanish cinematographer Gorka Gomez Andreu.The orchard, the exteriors and the interiors of the houses are always seen through a kind of haze, be it fog, specks of dust in slanting sunlight amidst countless overlapping shadows, smoke of unknown origin, or rain. And Gomez Andreu often slowly pulls back from the action in focus, eliciting a singularly disconcerting effect.
The houses that these families now inhabit still harbour, perhaps in a way that is more than metaphorical, the presence of their former tenants. When they arrived, Astamur and Liza found a house that was completely set up, filled with myriad objects from spoons and large mirrors to old-style, wooden furniture. The spirits of their owners seem to have been preserved in these items and in the rooms, and the new inhabitants can probably feel them – not that any of them expresses it vocally. And so Astamur, the ghost of a man that he is now, has been pushed even farther away from his old self…
If there is a film that House of Others could be likened to, it is The Others by Alejandro Amenábar. But here, ghosts are just a part of the whole, not the point of the movie – if they are indeed there, beyond the masterfully created eerie atmosphere.
House of Others is a co-production by Georgia’s Cinetech Film Production and SARKE Group, Russia's Liga Production, Spain's Kinoscopik, and Croatia's Embrio. Tato Films has the international rights.