Thursday, October 06, 2011


Элисо / Elisso, Kaukasian ruusu [Elisò / Eliso / Caucasian Love] (Sakhkinmretstvi / Goskinprom Gruzii, Georgia SSR, SU 1928) D: Nikoloz [Nikolai] Shengelaya; SC: Sergei Tretyakov, Nikoloz [Nikolai] Shengelaya; DP: Vladimer Kereselidze; AD: Dimitri Shevardnadze; ass. D: Vasilii Dolenko; cast: Aleqsandre Imedashvili (Astamir), Kokhta Karalashvili (Vajia), Kira Andronikashvili (Eliso), Ilia Mamporia (Seidula), Tsetsilia Tsutsunava (Zazubika); 35 mm, 2242 m, 97’ (20 fps); from: Gosfilmofond of Russia. Russian intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in English only, 6 Oct 2011.

Music: Günter A. Buchwald (grand piano), Frank Bockius (percussions), Romano Todesco (accordeon, double-bass).

Sergei Kapterev (GCM Catalogue): "Nikolai Shengelaya directed the film and co-wrote the script. His previous directorial effort (together with Lev Push), Giuli, shown at the Giornate in 2010, dealt with some of the issues raised in Eliso (the relationship between Christians and Moslems, the power of age-old traditions), but in Eliso these issues were confronted in a much more radical way, both thematically and formally. The story of a Chechen village deported as a result of the expansionist policy of the Russian Empire is presented in Eliso as a collective tragedy. As was noted in one of the histories of Soviet cinema, the film “aimed at showing the behavior of a human collective in the days of tragic trials” (in comparison with this grand narrative, the story of star-crossed lovers became much less significant than in Kazbegi’s work). Just like the rough mountain terrain, the actions of the human masses are presented in Eliso as manifestations of the sublime, most strikingly embodied in the tragic suspense of epic mass scenes. The use of local archival material (such as the original Tsarist documents) for the aims of historical precision actualized the concept of “factography” developed by the Left Front of the Arts (Levyi front iskusstv, LEF), an avant-garde association in which Tretyakov played a leading role and which profoundly influenced Shengelaya’s aesthetics. This concept negated fictional storytelling and promoted stories based on “hard” facts of history, class politics, and economy. According to Shengelaya, work with archival facts directly influenced the form of the screenplay: its authors “totally changed Eliso’s dramatic collision, reinforcing the action of the masses and the depiction of their situation; and shifting the plot’s center of gravity into the depth of social phenomena.”"

"Eliso marked the emergence of a new national aesthetic which combined Georgian national tradition with the achievements of montage cinema. Expressive minimalism replaced the exotic decorativeness of previous “model” Georgian films. The film is full of laconic portraits and landscapes; eloquent details and dramatic textures; and structurally and emotionally determined changes of rhythm and tempo – from static, fresco-like compositions to deliriously edited scenes of the release of emotional tension, the most famous scene being the spontaneous dance of the deported Chechens edited to the sounds of traditional Georgian dance musica. Eliso retains its power and its historical relevance, especially in the context of the dramas unfolding in today’s Caucasus." – Sergei Kapterev

AA: A tragedy of a Chechen village in the year 1864. The Russians send Cossacks to chase them away to Turkey, masking the action as taking place "at their own request". This is a Soviet pro-Chechen film depicting them as noble and proud people facing tyranny. Eliso is the Chechen girl in love with the young Christian fighter Vajia. The sense of milieu is superb, the villagers seem authentic, and there is a splendid spirit in the movie. Perhaps the Russians are depicted slightly too parodically, and there are moments where there is a lack of drive in the narrative. But this film is a treasure of epic storytelling. The long shot of the villagers' emigrating from their mountain home down the winding road is memorable. There are also striking montage sequences (building a house in the traditional way, the dance after the birth of the baby and the death of the mother). The music trio was inspired to a folk-music based improvisational performance. The print is mostly beautiful, partly struck from apparently difficult source material.

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