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  Beginning She Lies There Still
Year: 2020
Director: Dea Kulumbegashvili
Stars: Ia Sukhitashvili, Rati Onelli, Kakha Kintsurashvili, Saba Gogichaishvili, Ia Kokiashvili, Mari Kopchenovi, Giorgi Tsereteli
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: In this small, rural town in Georgia, there is an even smaller sect of Jehovah's Witnesses who meet at a local hall. On one such day, they assemble and Yana (Ia Sukhitashvili) is among them, a young mother and wife of one of the authorities in that church who helps out the community as a schoolteacher. But as the preacher relates the Biblical story of Abraham and how he was asked to murder his own son by God, before he reaches the part about mercy, a firebomb is thrown into the hall, followed by others, and the congregation panic and scream as they try to escape. Escape they do, but for Yana this act of extreme prejudice is too much for her to contemplate, and as it preys on her mind the oppression she is experiencing becomes all too clear...

Beginning, the debut feature from Georgian director Dea Kulumbegashvili, looks a lot like an ending - not of her career, as she was obviously going to appeal greatly to the arthouse crowd, but for her characters: the end of faith, of a marriage, of innocence, maybe even lives. It was also joining a number of films by up and coming female directors in this era who used rape as a plot device, presented from a distance and shot dispassionately, as if the mere act of the crime was enough to move the audience into the correct way to react. Yet all those films had in common an ambiguity about their abused protagonists, who all took differing actions but appeared to be of a piece with one another, and could be interpreted as acts of revenge on the patriarchy.

The Jehovah's Witnesses who are the victims of the attack, likewise, are not entirely without blame when it comes to enforcing some pretty oppressive views, as Yana realises, but nevertheless are reluctant to go ahead with any prosecutions or even investigations, as if the mere act of accusing an attacker or victimiser will make the situation worse rather than better. In horrible aptness, Yana finds herself a victim twice over when a man arrives at her home one evening when her husband David (Rati Onelli) is away on business. This man (Kakha Kintsurashvili) claims to be a police inspector to interview her about the arson, but soon his conversation turns to the sexually aggressive and he is making Yana highly disturbed - we worry he is about to rape her, but once he has forced her to speak as earthily as he is, he leaves.

She doesn't know there will be repercussions, and in two separate scenes we are given that rape, and later more consequences as while she refused to go to David to share her ordeal, he finds out anyway because these bullies are the type who can work out ways of making their victimisations last in (electronic) methods. Despite scenes where Yana takes a little pleasure in life, these are increasingly outweighed by her suffering and we worry even more about what she will do when this is too much for her to bear. Rightly so, it turns out, as we should have noted that opening sermon well, making her final act both unfathomable by any sane perspective, but all too understandable when it is reflecting the society she is existing in and will never treat her with respect; David can barely muster love for her when it's control that he prefers. Served up in static shots of often very long takes, with no musical score to enforce the starkness, Beginning gave you plenty of time to chew over its provocations, among them the musing that why would any mother want her child to grow up in this emotionally violent environment? Though you wish for a better solution. A long two hours, its final image was so striking you almost disbelieved your eyes when it appeared.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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