Focus on Grzeli Nateli Dgeebi (In Bloom)

Focus on Grzeli Nateli Dgeebi

In Bloom by debutant Georgian director Nana Ekvtimishvili and second-time German director Simon Groß is a coming-of-age story set in Tbilisi in 1992. Largely an autobiographical effort of Ekvtimishvili, who wrote the script, the film follows two 14 year old girls growing up in a violent, male-dominated society.

USSR has just fallen apart and Georgia is leading a war in runaway province of Abkhazia. Tbilisi is a chaotic place where people fight for a place in line to buy bread and lawless streets are teeming with arrogant soldiers and crooks of all levels. A commentator on the radio remarks that “Every Georgian should own a gun”, which seems to be the most romantic gift a boy can give to a girl.

At least, this is what two teenage girls “in bloom”, Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria), conclude after the latter is presented with a pistol with one bullet by an admirer, a handsome boy called Lado (Data Zakareishvili). Another admirer, Kote (Zurab Gogaladze), a member of an informal gang- most young men in Tbilisi seem to be in, or are attempting  to form, such gangs- later kidnaps her from the bread line and in the next scene we see her getting married to him.

She is clearly falling into the same pattern as her mother who is married to an abusive alcoholic, and Natia’s loud and dysfunctional family is contrasted by Eka’s, where absence of a husband and father echoes even more loudly, for the reason we will find out in the last sequence of the film. She lives with mother and older sister, frequently rummaging through a box with letters, a USSR passport and one very symbolic cigarette, in her mother’s cabinet.

In Bloom largely consists of episodes depicting the life of the two teenage girls, very precisely crafted and put together by the directors and experienced German editor Stefan Stabenow (also featuring in this year’s Berlinale Forum with Sieniawka). They make for a very coherent hole, following a thread of family traditions and values of the society where men have to be strong and are more respected if they are violent, and women are subject to numerous rules, both voiced and implied.

Cinematography of Romania’s Oleg Mutu (regular collaborator of Cristian Mungiu and Sergei Loznitsa) shows us faces of a gorgeous nation and a dilapidated, but still beautiful city, in a bleached tone. There are several particularly impressive sequences, with the single-shot scene of Eka’s traditional Georgian solo dance at Natia’s wedding standing out.

The whole cast more than holds its own, whether its members are young or old, experienced or newcomers, but the two lead actresses are the film’s anchor, both fantastically convincing and natural while executing demanding scenes which require very diverse skills.

In Bloom was co-produced by Germany’s Indiz Films, Georgia’s Polare Film and France’s Arizona Films. Memento has the international rights.

by Vladan Petkovic