True love, Georgian-style
Rezo Gigineishvili’s new film ‘Love With An Accent’ celebrates Russian-Georgian love stories.
Published: October 17, 2012 (Issue # 1731)
LOVE WITH AN ACCENT
Nadezhda Mikhalkova plays a young Russian girl who falls in love with her Georgian fugitive neighbor.
Kind-hearted, sentimental and overweight, Helga is desperate for a baby. She pins her last hopes on a trip to Georgia, where, as she learns, it is impossible to be ignored by men.
“All it takes is to get yourself to Georgia, and a man will find you,” — these words sound so promising, and Helga packs her bag for a week-long trip to Tbilisi.
The story of Helga’s conception quest is at the heart of a new film, “Love With An Accent,” that has just started screening at Formula Kino. Directed by the Georgian filmmaker Rezo Gigineishvili, the film interweaves several unrelated romantic threads that all revolve around Russian-Georgian love stories. The separate plots are united by the simple message that love overcomes the most incredible obstacles, that it requires patience and tolerance, and that it miraculously brings luck in the most hopeless situations.
The first storyline to be shot was the story of Merab (Merab Ninidze) — a middle-aged man who is a criminal hiding from the law in an apartment — and Nadya (Nadezhda Mikhalkova), a young and pure Russian girl who lives in the house opposite. The connection between them is a little boy, Zuki, who is learning to play piano. The couple’s first outing — to Zuki’s concert — ends with Merab’s sudden arrest. It is not clear from the film how long he will have to serve in jail, but the director does not omit to show us the smiling Nadya meeting him at the gates upon his release. No doubt, this scene will appeal to male prisoners across the globe.
LOVE WITH AN ACCENT
The movie’s makers say their goal was to reflect the Georgian national character in a natural environment.
“Perhaps the most surprising thing during the filming was that regardless of the location where we were shooting, everyone wanted to contribute, to sort of look after us, and offered us help, be it bringing food or carrying pieces of furniture,” said Archil Gelovani, the film’s producer. “There was a special atmosphere around the movie, a very happy and very inspiring mood. There was always a crowd of people watching what we were doing. ”
Gigineishvili compared Georgian hospitality with opening a jar filled with treasures that never seem to end.
“The character of people varies incredibly depending on the region of the country, but the friendliness just never seemed to evaporate,” he said of his native country.
The shooting resulted in more than 90 hours of material made during 60 days of filming. Editing it was an additional challenge. The goal was to reflect the Georgian character in a natural environment, while emphasizing the romantic “love knows no borders” aspect.
LOVE WITH AN ACCENT
Anna Mikhalkova plays Helga, who finds a father for her child in Georgia.
The trip of poor Helga (Anna Mikhalkova, Nadezhda’s sister) seems doomed from the start. The heroine simply oozes misfortune. Helga takes a camcorder with her in order to document her relentless quest for a potential mate. Toward the end of the story, the list of her failures — she tries football matches, jogging routes, cafes and wine parties, all in vain — is as long as the Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) statue, to whom the tearful Helga addresses her plea, is tall. Happiness finally comes in the form of the hotel porter, who not only successfully completes the impregnation mission, but even leaves Georgia to live with Helga.
Gigineishvili said the main principle of making the film was first to see the characters in real life, and then move the action into an environment that was interesting for the filmmakers.
“One of the script writers recalled that he had been exchanging letters with a guy who was hiding somewhere, trying to escape from the law, and was so exhausted by such a miserable existence that he was actually relieved when he was eventually caught,” the director said. “We liked the sound of that idea, and we wanted to develop it: We thought, let’s make this guy a romantic type, who falls in love with an innocent girl who is living next door. This is how the story of Merab and Nadya was born.”
The story of Helga, in comparison — especially with its happy ending — does not sound realistic when described in words. This sort of story, sadly, rarely has a fairytale ending. Yet on screen, it seems only natural that the plump, clumsy and long-suffering optimist should eventually get her well-earned family.
ALEXANDER BELENKY / SPT
Georgian filmmaker Rezo Gigineishvili, director of ‘Love With An Accent.’
“This storyline could have just as well been a silent movie,” the director said. “What we looked for was a kind of improvisation on a given theme, and Anna Mikhalkova did brilliantly.”
The subplot about the penniless Russian Nikita (Nikita Yefremov) and his sparrow-sized Georgian fiancée Tina (Tinatin Dalakishvili), who comes from a wealthy family, raises associations with the runaway movies that have always been so popular in Hollywood: A couple in love is on the run from the armed strongmen sent by the girl’s angry father. Along their way, they meet the cynical swindler Misha (Misha Meshi), who is so touched by the genuine romance that he sells his silver belt, inherited from his grandfather — and perhaps the most expensive item in his possession — to buy plane tickets for Nikita and Tina. The armed heavies get to the airport just in time to break Misha’s nose and a couple of ribs, but too late to stop the lovers.
Perhaps in an effort to give more ground to the otherwise rather rose-tinted look at love, the director has incorporated into his film a storyline about a bitter nouveau riche divorce. The utterly neurotic, 40-something Filipp (Filipp Yankovsky) is breaking up with his glamorous and bitchy wife Sveta (Svetlana Bondarchuk). The two experience a re-start in Georgia, where they are shooting an advertisement. The couple discover they still have feelings for each other when Filipp survives an adventure that begins when he falls off a rock into a mountain river. He ends up filling in as a temporary replacement for the Russian fiancé of a Georgian woman who lives in a remote village, where the tough-looking residents are governed by the concept of blood feud.
The storylines in “Love With An Accent” are no more believable than any miracle, yet they all appear amazingly natural. And the happy finale of every subplot would make a perfect toast at any Georgian get-together like those featured prominently in the film. The mood of the film is sure to make even the most introverted soul a little more sociable — and eager to see for themselves whether there are really so many nice people out there, in Georgia or anywhere else.