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‹ Flicks with The Film Snob

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

April 17, 2022
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What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?
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An evil eye changes the appearance of two young people in love so that they can’t recognize one another, in a film from the country of Georgia that reveals the world of myth and folklore underlying everyday life.

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? This intriguing and ambiguous question is the title of a new film from Georgia (the country), in which complex levels of meaning are designed to convey a love story in all its simplicity. It’s written and directed by Aleksandre Koberidze, and it seems fitting that the title is an open-ended question, since he is clearly open to as many aspects of ordinary life in a Georgian city as he can be. The central narrative is about a young woman, Lisa, and a young man, Giorgi, who meet by chance on a street and fall in love on first sight. They find one another again that evening, and arrange to meet later and talk at a certain place, forgetting to tell each other their names.

At this point we discover that Koberidze sees the reality of everyday life overlaid, as it were, with dimensions of myth, folk belief, and folk tale. But if you’re expecting what we’ve come to call magical realism, this film offers something different. In the modern era we’ve largely shut the realm of folklore out of our lives, to the point where the word myth has come to mean false, but Koberidze is telling us that it’s just about different ways of looking at things, and that metaphor is a vehicle for whatever meanings we seek and find in life. We are introduced to this through an old-fashioned method: a narrator who tells the story of what’s going on while we’re watching.

And so, the narrator tells us, unbeknownst to Lisa and Giorgi, an unknown force, an evil eye, has put a curse on both of them. They wake up the next morning with completely different appearances than they had before. In the film, we see new, different actors playing them. Because of this, when they go to their prearranged and unfortunately crowded place to meet again, they can’t find or recognize one another. They each know that they’ve changed, but it doesn’t occur to them that the other has changed as well.

Now, this sounds like an episode of The Twilight Zone. But the way the film presents it, it’s just another problem in life to be dealt with somehow. The seemingly supernatural change is really just a metaphorical challenge: how much do we define ourselves and others by appearance? If we’re truly in love, shouldn’t we able to know each other without being guided by the physical? Well, no, actually. And it’s complicated by the fact that they’ve changed in other ways. Lisa, a pharmacist, has lost her medical knowledge and must find a new job. Giorgi, a footballer, can’t play well anymore, but he remains a fan. The permutations of this hide-and-seek scenario continue to gently undulate throughout the movie.

In the meantime we discover the real subject of the film, the experience of daily life for folks in the city. Koberidze’s camera follows a host of different people as they go about their business, with a special emphasis on children. Appreciate the now moment, the film seems to be saying, because that’s all there really is. In addition, the elements of storytelling are shaken and spilled into many forms. We see a host of techniques, like a playful lesson in cinematic style: realism, fantasy, slow cinema, real time, offbeat editing, slow motion, and the use of music to color scenes in radical ways. The narrator talking to us while we see silent action, and dialogue printed in intertitles, almost brings us back to square one of film history.

The best symbolism doesn’t explain everything, but casts a spell that can lead to many places, so in this strange and lovely movie, as we ask What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? the answers will reveal more about ourselves than we thought.


TAGS
appearance,   city life,   evil eye,   Georgia,   Soccer,  

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