Repentance

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A Soviet movie about the traumas of the Stalinist years: the tyranny, the betrayals, the persecutions, and the unexplained disappearances, mounted by Georgian director Abuladze as a weird phantasmagoria of dreams and nightmares, absurdist drama and black comedy. He starts from the ceremonial burial of a town mayor, and the subsequent repeated disinterment of the corpse by the daughter of two of the late tyrant's victims. Flashbacks show his rise to power and growing megalomania. Varlam the mayor was a paranoid secret policeman, a brutal bully-boy. The character is not just an amalgam of Stalin and Beria, but a compendium of every conceivable fascistic trait; and Abuladze tries to underline this desperately literal 'universality' by setting him in a context outside history and culture, where knights in armour stand alongside black-shirted thugs and Boney M vies with Debussy on the soundtrack. The result is neither as minatory nor as moving as it thinks it is, despite some arresting surrealist images and the performance of Makharadze as Varlam.

By: TR

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