Monday 22 September 2008

The Legacy (2006)

The Georgian film 13 Tzameti was certainly not the greatest film of the last ten years but it's staying with me more than maybe any other. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt such suspense in a film, thinking myself a little jaded through experience: I can appreciate the way directors and actors construct their scenes but generally from a distance. Géla Babluani put me right back in the viewing seat with 13 Tzameti and I was shocked and stunned along with everyone else. I've been eagerly awaiting another film with his name on it and finally the Sundance Channel gifts me with this one.

We follow three French youths, far better behaved than any in Sheitan, on a trip through Georgia. They're there because one of them has inherited a derelict castle from her grandmother, but that's just the framework for the story that unfolds. Together with Nikolaï, their hired interpreter, they set off by bus to the castle but quickly get caught up in the story of a couple of their fellow passengers: a young man and his grandfather, travelling with a coffin. It would seem that the coffin is for the old man, who is sacrificing himself for his family to even the score and bring between two rival villages.

The Legacy is free from the degrees of suspense that permeated 13 Tzameti but it's full of colour and ethnic flavour. It's impossible to miss the music, the gorgeous Georgian landscapes and the fact that we experience almost everything through translation, but what we really see is a completely different way of life to what we know, more alien than most science fiction where the aliens are nothing but us in different coloured skin.

There's another great character on the bus: a mute who develops into something far more as the film moves on, growing with it. Everything about him helps to build our understanding of who these people are. These Georgians live by their own code of honour, time stretches because memories don't forget, and everything is bartered. The ending is powerful and very telling. Perspective is certainly everything, especially when dealing with that which is alien. The only thing more powerful than what is revealed after the main action of the film is the fact that those who were unwittingly involved don't understand a thing about it.

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