XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა – 19TH CENTURY GEORGIAN CHRONICLE (1979)
Director: ალექსანდრე რეხვიაშვილი (Aleqsandre Rekhviashvili)
Script: რეზო კვესელავა, ანზორ ჯუღელი, ალექსანდრე რეხვიაშვილი (Rezo Kveselava, Anzor Jugeli, Aleqsandre Rekhviashvili)
Music: ვახტანგ კუხიანიძე (Vakhtang Kukhianidze)
Cinematography: გური შენგელაია (Guri Shengelaya)
Cast: მამუკა სალუქვაძე as ნიკო (Mamuka Saluqvadze as Niko), ვარლამ წულაძე (Varlam Tsuladze)
ცუცა მეძმარიაშვილი (Tsutsa Medzmariashvili), თენგიზ მაღალაშვილი (Tengiz Magalashvili)
დარეჯან ხარშილაძე (Darejan Kharshiladze), რამაზ ჩხიკვაძე (Ramaz Chkhikvadze)

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When it comes to director ალექსანდრე რეხვიაშვილი (Aleqsandre Rekhviashvili), very little is written about him and almost none of it is in English. A graduate of Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in the early sixties, რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) was given the decision to continue working in Russia or to transfer to Georgia. Rekhviashvili made the choice to move to Georgia on the advice of his peer Mikhail Kalatozov. Directing only five features before directing documentaries, XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა was his second directorial work. რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) worked with many of the same peers, such as working on their projects as cinematographer for გიორგიშენგელაია (Guri Shengelaya’s) ფიროსმანი (FIROSMANI, 1969). Film was not რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili’s) sole creative medium, often expounding on his theories through painting and sketches with a keen interest in Cubism. რეხვიაშვილი was very successful in building on the poeticism that marks a long history of similar works in both the literature and film of Georgia.

XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა begins in an almost dream-like state as ნიკო (Niko) returns to his home village after studying in Russia. He has returned to protect the village’s forest, which the Czarist government is attempting to sell off. ნიკო  first stops to see his mother before reuniting with friends and seeing the village schoolhouse. Before long, he’s off to the local government office to discuss the fate of the forest. When reviewing the paperwork, it’s noticed that a form releasing the forest to the villagers is unsigned. ნიკო must wait for government officials to meet and discuss what is lawful while ნიკო asserts the moral ground of the villagers who have lived for generations within the forest. Over the next few days ნიკო wanders aimlessly around the village with an official’s daughter, philosophizing the situation with the forest. The officials meet and decide how to deal with ნიკო while also discussing the private sale of the forest, ultimately deciding to hire three mercenaries to kill ნიკო. Seemingly caught between the decision of facing the wrath of both the villagers and the government, the mercenaries decide to put ნიკო in a well in the forest. The woman that ნიკო walked the town with has spent her time searching for ნიკო and is spotted by the mercenaries. Worried that she will find ნიკო in the well, they chase after her and kill a villager in their pursuit. The film concludes as the villagers search the forest for ნიკო.

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True to its name, XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა is a poetic retelling of 19th century Gerogrian history. Prior to the 19th century, Georgia was fractured, torn apart from repeated invasions from Persia and the Mongols. In 1828 Russia solidified its control of the Caucus by defeating the Persians and soon began assimilating the region’s culture. The longstanding Georgian Orthodox Church was abolished and the Russian Orthodox Church was observed. During the midcentury, with the appointment of Mikhail Vorontsov, Russification began to dissolve. Vorontsov established schools teaching in Georgian and at the same time westernized the capital city Tbilisi. This period of time encouraged younger intellectuals to travel to Russia for their education, but north of the Caucus they would also learn of reform and nationalization. These tergdaleulni rekindled Georgia’s interest in unifying as an individual nation, an idea that had been absent since the 10th century. Alexander III would take the throne in Russia in 1881 and began to crush the rights afforded by Vorontsov. However, Russia would slowly cede control of the Caucus as it began to deal with inner turmoil.

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ნიკო (Niko) is representative of this tergdaleulni class, returning to his home a well-educated man with the desire to protect the identity of Georgia. The forest, in a larger context, is representative of this idea and is gorgeously photographed in black and white by გური შენგელაია(Guri Shengelaya). Where რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) chooses to take liberties in the depiction of ნიკო dealing with the government. In the 19th century, Georgia still maintained a very medieval style of noble class that still offered serfs as gifts; this nobility flourished under the Russification of the 19th century. The style of government shown in XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა acts and is aesthetically similar to the party style of ruling in communist Georgia. რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) uses this anachronism to draw a connection from the contemporary government to the old totalitarian government. რეხვიაშვილი also chooses to end the film without answering questions of whether ნიკო(Niko) is alive. If ნიკო is poetically representative of the tergdaleulni spirit, რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) it only leads the viewer to question if that spirit is alive in contemporary Georgia.

რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) is truly adept at executing poeticism in XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა, across content and aesthetics. The film features many scenes that seem torn out from a dream or perhaps the poetry of ვაჟა-ფშაველა (Vazha-Pshavela). In one scene, we watch the party leaders meet to discuss the fate of the forest, but instead of the office they are meeting in a orchard, a dominated and controlled growth of nature. გური შენგელაია (Guri Shengelaya) also films the forest as a true wonder of nature. Characters seem endlessly lost in its massiveness, dominating not just the characters but also the screen itself. Its grandness is not just oppressive but it is also uncontrollable and ever growing.

XIX საუკუნის ქართული ქრონიკა is another chapter in Georgia’s untapped poetic and cinematic history. Like many of the films from the region, it can be daunting and confusing to the viewer without some historical context for the events in the film. რეხვიაშვილი (Rekhviashvili) eclipses this challenge by directing a film that is visually gorgeous in not just its aesthetics, but how it visually communicates its ideas to the viewer.

References:
Georgia Film Database
საფეხური. ალექსანდრე რეხვიაშვილი – Tabula article on Aleqsandre Rekhviashvili Retrospective
The Caucasus An Introduction – Thomas De Waal
History of the Georgian People – W.E.D Allen