Rusudan Pirveli: Susa (2010)

reviewed by Irina Demetradze © 2011

The Landscape of the Soul in the Suburbs

Plain reality: critics use this term with such determination. Can “reality” have a claim on objectivity? Artistic reality is always subjective, indeed. That is why the term “authentic” seems more acceptable. In Rusudan Pirveli film Susa the accrued traumas in a character’s consciousness are revealed through the social background.

susaThe action of the film takes place in a settlement far away from the town, which has only one “place of interest” represented by an illegal vodka distillery. Perhaps this distillery and its owner (Levan Lortkipanidze) with his management represent a microcosm of society. It is located in an unaesthetic and poverty-stricken environment, populated by filthy bottles and no less hygienic workmen. The low-quality wine from Otar Iosseliani’s Falling Leaves (Giorgobistve, 1966) has been replaced with fake vodka in the new millennium. Wine in Iosseliani’s film was a synonym for the nation’s genetic code, which was shattered within the framework of the Soviet system. The situation in Pirveli’s film is much worse: cultural symbols are absent here. Fake vodka is the sign of a generally false social reality, of moral and physical poverty.

The film’s characters are the mother and son who work in this workshop. The mother (Ekaterine Kobakhidze) washes the bottles in the freezing-cold water and fills them with moonshine. Her son Susa carries these bottles in his rucksack to the town and distributes them to kiosks and refectories. Sometimes he evades the police and sometimes he becomes the victim of street boys. Susa (Avtandil Tetradze) is a stranger in this environment. This inevitable reality is his fate but not his choice. This world governed by a struggle for survival and without a natural, organic environment is an inadequate place for a teenager to grow up. The filmmaker emphasizes this imperfect reality, which in principle does not concern any concrete social sphere, but embraces more global issues. People are on the verge of existence, and everyday life absorbs them: it holds no fascination, is not “easy,” but “unbearable.” And Susa is really isolated against this background. Maybe his life is inert and monotone, but there is a need for protest, and—above all—there is hope that father will arrive and everything will end, and a new life will begin in town…

susaThe social background and the war provide the main source of inspiration for young Georgian filmmakers. The protagonists are characterized by accrued traumas but less defined through instincts or feelings. This, in my opinion, is one of the shortcomings of contemporary Georgian cinema. Perhaps such a “laying bare” is inappropriate for the screen, but there should nevertheless be an emotional drive in Georgian films which is so strong in other film cultures.

The father-theme is tremendously topical for Georgian cinema. Pirveli’s Susa here refers back to Giorgi Ovashvili’s The Other Bank (Gagma napiri, 2009) in its concern with the absent father whom Tedo searches in Abkhazia. But Tedo also has his own roots there: it is the place where he left his father and his childhood, the world that made up his family idyll as it is embossed in his consciousness. The boy’s real environment is that of life at the lowest social end with a mother who is a prostitute.

Waiting for the absent father is the only hope for Susa, whose mind is plagued by the external reality and the base nature of the adults. His only hope is to elude the moonshine distillery and its owner, and have the chance of starting a new life. Before the father’s return there is a dramatic episode when Susa deliberately goes to the bath house, “washes himself” and has his hair cut. Thus he gets ready to meet his father, to start a new life. On his way Susa runs into some offended street boys. All his veneer and shine disappears within seconds as the boy is covered in dust. Then he meets his drowsy and drunk father at home, and the next morning ends with the father’s journey to the vodka distillery.

This compromise is the only way out for the father (Gia Gogishvili). Yet in this case the term “hopelessness” is more appropriate to the situation. The illusions have faded; reality is harsh and impregnable. The desperate Susa attacks the distillery’s owner and beats him without mercy. This is his fight with reality and fate, even if his revolt is perhaps is pointless and vain, but it is a precious moment.

Irina Demetradze

Susa (2010)
Color, RED 4K, 89 minutes
Director: Rusudan Pirveli
Screenplay: Giorgi Chalauri
Cinematography: Mirian Shengelaia, Irakli Geleishvili
Production design: Guram Navrozashvili
Editing: Rusudan Pirveli, Zviad Alkhanaidze
Sound: Madona Tevzadze
Cast: Avtandil Tetradze, Giorgi Gogishvili, Levan Lortkipanidze, Ekaterine Kobakhidze
Producer: Rusudan Pirveli

Rusudan Pirveli: Susa (2010)

reviewed by Irina Demetradze © 2011