ვედრება -THE PLEA (1968)
Director: Tengiz Abuladze
Script: Tengiz Abuladze, Rezo Kveselava
Anzor Saluqvadze, Vazha-Pshavela
Music: Nodar Gabunia
Cinematography: Aleksandr Antipenko
Cast: Spartak Bagashvili, Ramaz Chkhikvadze
Otar Megvinetukhutsesi, Zurab Kapianidze
Tengiz Abuladze studied theater direction Shota Rustaveli Theatre Institute in Georgia before pursuing a career in film by studying at VGIK, graduating in 1953. He would begin his film career like many Eastern Europeans, by shooting documentaries. In 1968 he started directing a triptych of films focusing on similar themes, the first being ვედრება, an adaption of two poems by Vazha-Pshavela (ვაჟა-ფშაველა) . Abuladze would complete the triptych with მონანიება (REPENTANCE, 1978) which did well in the Soviet Union and even had a western distribution, rare for a Georgian film.
A poet sees visions of both God, represented by a beautiful women draped in white, and the devil, obese and lingering in the shadows. The devil proceeds to tell the poet two tales about heroes and the deeds they commit. The first tale is of Aluda a Khevsureti who is sent on a mission to kill two Kistins who have been terrorizing the Khevsureti village. He fights Mutsali and is impressed with his bravey and forgo’s the custom of Khevsureti of cutting off the hand of infidels. While celebrating his victory in the village he is haunted by his actions and the next day attempts to have a sacrifice for the fallen warrior. The villagers are upset with both his lack of contempt for the enemy and now his heresy. He is banished from the village and departs on a pilgrimage to better understand his new insight.
The poet witnesses the banishment and subsequent burning of Aluda’s house, all while the figure out God attempts to quell the flames, invisible to the Khevsureti. Next we are told a tale of two hunters, a Khevsureti and a Kistin, who have encountered each other after the Khevsureti has killed an animal. The Kistin unsuccessful in his hunt invites the Khevsureti to his house, where they are both hounded by the villagers. The Kistin hunter insists that his guest should be protected by the code of their religion but the villagers only see him as an enemy. While attempting to defend his honor and his guest, the Kistin hunter his killed by the villagers and the Khevsureti hunter is bound and sacrificed as a tribute to their God.
ვედრება is a gorgeous film shot in the vast landscapes of Georgia. Abuladze also masterfully manipulates the contrast of light to expound on the metaphor of good and evil in a constant turmoil. There is so much to the cinematography of the film that it is such a shame that it languishes in such bad shape. Shots differ between landscape shots that at times seem almost two-dimensional with characters moving as specks across horizons but at the same time Abuladze composes close ups of faces as they stay almost motionless, stuck in time. On top of this, the traditional European soundtrack side-by-side with ethnic Georgian chants heightens the contrast between the tribal and modern eras.
This leads to how the film is narratively structured. Dialogue is often taken from Vazha’s poems, and dialogue is often dubbed over the actors as they often don’t speak. It leads the viewer to feel as if this is their thoughts as they often come in unison with other characters. This usage of dialogue combined with the cinematography gives the film a very poetic feel. It’s hard to portray Abuladze’s translation of poetic style to film outside of comparing it to Ukranian films in a similar vein, such as Dovzhenko.
ვედრება ends with several haunting scenes portraying the theme of the struggle of good and evil and its inseparability. God is wed to the Devil and she keeps her head bowed in shame as wedding guests dole out gifts, including the poet who offers his sword and shield, gifts passed down from his lineage. The poet then watches on as men dig graves in a field and finally we watch as God is hung and the camera returns to the poet at the bottom of a cliff, the same shot as the beginning of the film.
Abuladze’s ვედრება is unlike most films I have seen and it is unfortunate that it remains trapped in obscurity even within Georgia. It is a film that really encapsulates the vision throughout all aspects of the filming, and transcends film to embody its parent work of poetry. ვედრება succeeds at showing the real power of cinematic language by creating a film that communicates its themes to the viewers without needing outside knowledge or perhaps even an understanding of the verbal language. Though its message is easily understood, ვედრება is still deeply entrenched in a rich Georgian history. ვედრება is available in a poorly subtitled and poorly transferred English friendly edition from RUSCICO.