(director/writer: Tenziz Abuladze; screenwriters: Nana Janelidze/Rezo Kveselava; cinematographer: Mikhail Agranovich; editor: Guliko Omadze; music: Nana Janelidze; cast: Avtandil Makharadze (Varlam/Abel), Iya Ninidze (Guliko), Zeinab Botsvadze (Ketevan), Ketevan Abuladze (Nino), Edisher Giorgobiani (Sandro); Runtime: 150; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: ; Media Home Entertainment; 1984-USSR-in Georgian with English subtitles)
“It’s worth more for its daring political statement against the totalitarian Soviet regime of Stalin than as a work of moving satire.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s worth more for its daring political statement against the totalitarian Soviet regime of Stalin than as a work of moving satire. It’s known as the first Soviet film, one released in the more liberal perestroika/glasnost era of Mikhail Gorbachev, that’s sharply critical of the USSR. It has been released by the Soviets some three years after written in 1981 and green-lighted under the Brezhnev administration. The risky black comedy lets us know that the crimes of the past are unable to be buried, but does it in a didactic way. Co-writer and director, Georgian filmmaker Tenziz Abuladze (“The Wishing Tree”/”A Necklace for My Beloved”/”Khadzhi Murat”), offers a skilful production and co-writers Nana Janelidze and Rezo Kveselava have no trouble unearthing the ridiculous dark absurdities under Stalinism.
It was filmed in Stalin’s birthplace of Georgia, as a TV project.
Repentance won the Grand prize of the Jury, the Prize of the Ecumenical jury, and the FIPRESCI prize, at the 1987 Cannes film festival.
The villainous mayor of a small town in Georgia, Varlam (Avtandil Makharadze), responsible for Stalin-like terror in his megalomania, dies and is given a pompous burial. Problem arises when the attractive Guliko (Iya Ninidze), someone whose two daughters were persecuted by the mayor, keeps digging up his grave and placing it somewhere else. She is arrested after telling authorities Varlam has no business being buried with such honor. During her trial, the story of the evil mayor is told in flashback, using the power of symbols and surreal dream images to bring back the recollections of that nightmarish regime.
REVIEWED ON 1/21/2014 GRADE: B-