Aleko Tsabadze: Rene Goes to Hollywood (Rene Midis Holivudshi, 2010)

reviewed by Lela Ochiauri © 2011

  Rene in search of wasted time and uniting the broken link of times?

Man is attracted by the unreal and mysterious. He strives to make things visible and transparent, and observe what is unobservable by an unarmed eye.

The memory of mankind retains a lot of information, which is transferred on to new generations over centuries. Memory forms consciousness: the past reaches the present like an echo and affects modern reality.

A thinker, equipped with such “knowledge,” starts the search from his own self (trying to find out who we are, where we come from and where we are going) and maps out a path that he will follow, even if he knows that fate has its own rules and plans. Later, when all this “knowledge” is accumulated, a clash and an eruption follow. Explosions create new circumstances and unexpected constructions. The mechanism starts to move vehemently and becomes unstoppable.

This is an eternal process. One day, when someone follows the above-mentioned route, he finds that nothing has changed in the universe. Human nature, society, way of life, ambitions, actions or inactivity, neglect or compassion are the same as always. They are permanent, just like the wish to perceive the world and change something in its “regular” system.

reneThe viewers of Aleko Tsabadze’s film Rene Goes to Hollywood will follow the above-mentioned route. The film contains binary concepts—private and universal, from the personal emotional-psychological state to Proust’s common psychology, generalizations of the spiritual portrait of modern society. The problems—concrete and eternal—are represented in an unusual form.

By means of uniting metaphors and symbols the director creates a world in which reality is substituted by the imagination; the past comes so close to the present that it is difficult to understand which time is real and which is invented. It is impossible to make a distinction between the dimensions. The surrealistic mixture of things and events leads to new conditions for reasoning.

Rene Dadiani (the representative of an aristocratic family that was annihilated by the Communists, like numerous others) teaches filmmaking. At the same time he transports gas tanks. This enables him meet different people and observe various layers of the society.

Life is grey and social habits are routine. Later this well-ordered chain falls apart. However, no one except Rene notices this change. Rene observes and films everything. These frames and strange visions transfer to a new dimension and create a new layer of time and space—in reality or imagination.

What is Rene looking for? His own self. He wants to meet his ancestors and find out their secret. Is he trying to understand the past or assess the present? His mind, fantasy and universal memory are fed by the past—bringing to life historical facts and animating old photos, what is happening and what may happen. Maybe he wants to find a way out and break the seemingly endless deadlock?

He wants to break through a rigid wall of time and space, beyond which (as in the present time) many dangers are looming, with many mines that explode upon opening each consecutive door.

The world is inhabited by “monsters;” Rene calls them “Yahoos.” Physically they represent the bottom of the society; metaphorically, they are symbols of spiritual degradation. The Yahoos have invaded the city and wax and multiply in the streets. They have traveled far; they have lived on earth for centuries, but they have also existed in the human imagination.

reneIn Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels there is the country of Houyhnhnms, where Yahoos are human-like faceless creatures without spirits. By creating the caste of Yahoos in the film, Aleko Tsabadze quotes Swift by manner of allusion typical of post-modernism. Rene starts to fight the Yahoos, as well as injustice, violence, and loss of spirituality. This battle is comparable to that of the Spanish hidalgo against the windmills. Maybe the battle is also with Rene’s own self and the Yahoo that has secretly usurped his inner world.

The inner struggle turns into “war action,” symbolizing past wars. Rene is alone in the fight against the universe. The war happens in his inner world. Rene fights to fulfil his mission: to change society and the world around him, to eliminate violence, and to avoid war. This is the war of a pacifist for peace. It is Rene’s choice to break through the wall of time with the help of the imagination. He strives to see the past and understand the causes for events, the reasons for the loss of spirituality, for the strange occurrences within himself.

After meeting the Shadow of his father, Hamlet says: “The time is out of joint; O curs’d spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” (Hamlet, I.5). It appears to be Rene’s fate to mend the link of times and restore the spiritual balance which is out of joint. He tries to achieve balance, but he constantly fails. Instead, two periods and two worlds exist in parallel: they are interlinked and interdependent. Strange as it may seem, they often overlap and eventually they are merged.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in The Condemned of Altona (Les Séquestrés d’Altona, 1959, aka Loser Wins): “It is impossible to escape from one’s own prison.” Rene also remains his own captive. He wants to be free, to run away from himself, but he fails to find a way out, because the walls he has erected are most rigid and unbreakable. Breaking through the barriers of time and space is not as difficult as overcoming internal obstacles and finding new and unexpected creatures inside oneself.

If one is not afraid of facing the truth but follows it, the door of time will be opened, one’s glance will break through the wall of the border into the dimension secretly governed by one’s mind, spirit, memory and imagination.

Endless circles form a cycle, while nothing will end. Nothing will change in the universe. Nothing has changed since the beginning of the film. In the beginning Rene stepped into new space which is either imaginary and illusionary, or real. Many questions appear and remain unanswered. Neither Rene nor the audience of the film have answers to these questions.

What is this strange game? Is it Rene’s adventure through imagination, reality, the past, documents (the film consists of many unusual interpretations of real stories and historical figures), inventions, mysteries? Is it a fantastic vision that appears in Rene’s insane and agitated mind? Is it the edge of insanity or a line that divides the past and the present, reality and imagination, arbitrariness and truth? Is it a journey in search of one’s self, of society, of the essence of the universe?

The events of the past penetrate the present before apparently disappearing without trace. The audience begins to wonder, together with Rene, whether it was just a dream, a fantasy—but suddenly a Yahoo appears: Vatsa Lertsmiseli (who was killed by Rene for offending his dignity) and starts to feed some seagulls together with his “murderer.”

This is the main theme of Aleko Tsabadze’s film: an invitation to a strange and unknown country and the choice that fate enables us to make. If we lapse into despair, we should remember the islands of human spirit where God has been retained, where man has not yet fallen into an animal-like state and tries to survive, preserving moral and ethical values.

Lela Ochiauri

Rene Goes to Hollywood, Georgia, 2010
Color, 101 minutes
Format: digital (Red), blow-up to 35 mm
Director and Scriptwriter: Aleko Tsabadze
Director of Photography: Konstantine (Mindia) Esadze
Production Design: Gogi Mikeladze
Music: Aleko Tsabadze
Cast: Niko Tavadze, Zura Begalishvili, Viktor Barbakadze, Misha Gomiashvili, Tina Alexishvili, Niko Gomelauri
Executive producer: Vladimer Kacharava
Producers: Levan Korinteli, Archil Gelovani
Production: Independent Film Project Studio, with financial support of the Georgian National Film Center 

Aleko Tsabadze: Rene Goes to Hollywood (Rene Midis Holivudshi, 2010)

reviewed by Lela Ochiauri © 2011