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  • TBC
  • 2006
  • 83 mins

Legacy

Legacy

Synopsis

In the first directorial collaboration between Gela Babluani and his father Témur, three French tourists head into the darker side of Georgian life

About

Georgian filmmaker Gela Babluani seems fated, at least for the time being, to be regarded as US horror maverick Eli Roth's cleverer, more mature cinematic twin. In 2005, both directors released films about (relatively) innocent young men drawn into secretive, illegal rings where murderous exploitation was the rule of the day. With its bigger budget, its sensationalist thrills, and the vocal support of Quentin Tarantino, Roth's Hostel was a hit in the post-9/11 torture-horror marketplace - but Babluani's moody black-and-white debut 13 (aka Tzameti) rang truer, hit harder and cut much deeper into the conscience of anyone lucky enough to catch it at their nearest arthouse.

For his second feature, Legacy, co-directed with his father Témur, Babluani's material once again consists of elements found in Hostel, but refashioned into something less adolescent, less xenophobic, and altogether more serious. For while Legacy also features a trio of westerners who stumble upon a brutally horrific scenario in Europe's eastern backwoods, here they are not so much the victims of a crime perpetrated by foreign 'Others' as themselves unwitting provocateurs in an already precarious local affair whose nuances they fail to comprehend.

Patricia (Testud) has come over from France with her friends Jean (Merhar) and Céline (Legrand) to claim a castle that she has inherited from a distant relative in Georgia. The three hire saturnine interpreter Nikolaï (Bongard) to help them with the language, and after a brief run-in with Tbilissi's criminal underworld, they set off on the long bus-trip to the castle. On the way, a grave looking old man (Gaparidze) climbs on board with his French-speaking grandson (Babluani) and an empty coffin.

The coffin is intended for the grandfather, who has agreed to let men from an enemy clan's village shoot him dead in order to end a blood feud that has raged on pointlessly for 40 years. Jean wants both to witness and to film the macabre ritual, Céline hopes somehow to help the boy, while a horrified Patricia just thinks they should leave well alone - but when the three accompany the two kinsmen to the village, fate and misunderstanding conspire to make events spin out of control.

Shot in an unflashy documentary style, with naturalistic performances and only minimal characterisation, Legacy seems so straightforward in its telling that the richness and subtlety of its themes almost takes the viewer unawares. For if the film's central event unfolds on a village bridge that will never be fully crossed, this mirrors a more general concern with gulfs that are never quite spanned - the divide between two clans trapped in an endless vendetta, between a nation's ancient traditions and modern aspirations, and (most of all) between East and West. "He's mixing up his future and past tenses," comments Patricia when she first hears the boy's story of his grandfather's impending death - she is mistaken, but in another sense she is completely correct, insofar as here the country's future seems doomed to become confused with its recurring past.

No wonder Nikolaï always looks so disconsolate - from the start he seems doomed to fail in his task to facilitate the French tourists' understanding of their Georgian experience. Their well-meaning but insensitive intervention does not result in a catastrophic change, but rather in something oddly worse: a return to the status quo, to a situation where each generation will continue paying for the mistakes of its ancestors, and where the easiest way to get on with one's neighbours is to keep one's mouth mutely shut.

A legacy can be a curse as much as a blessing. Patricia's inherited castle is a pile of stones in the middle of nowhere. The mirror that the old man bequeaths to his grandson merely reflects the fact that their fates will be the same. The letter that the gunman sends to his son marks the passage of retribution and suffering into the next age. Yet there is one legacy presented in this film that has a more positive, constructive quality: through their first directorial collaboration, the Babluanis, father and son, have shown that their talent is hereditary. In this bleak portrayal of Georgian life, it is just about the only sign of hope.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Stanislas Merhar, Augustin Legrand, Givi Sikharulidze, Sylvie Testud, Georges Babluani, Leo Gaparidze, Pascal Bongard, Olga Legrand
  • Director: Gela Babluani, Témur Babluani
  • Screen Writer: Témur Babluani, Gela Babluani, Jacques Dubuisson
  • Producer: Gela Babluani, Jean-Marie Delbary, Olivier Oursel
  • Photographer: Tariel Meliava

In a nutshell

From cynical beginning to even more cynical end, the Babluanis' grimly rewarding film reveals a nation trapped in its own historical legacy, and outsiders unable to understand let alone help.

by Anton Bitel

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