Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2016 - House of Others

The first feature from Georgian director Rusudan Glurjidze, House of Others, is likely to attract attention, not least for its incredible visuals. Taking place in the early 1990s, just after the end of the Georgian civil war, Glurjidze’s film tells the semi-autobiographical story of a family who inhabit a home abandoned by its pre-conflict occupants. Glurjidze finds inventive, cryptic ways to express how difficult it is to try to return to normality after the disruption of war.

A meditation on place, memory and guilt driven more by mood than story, House of Others explores the complexities of post-war reconstruction by bringing several groups (and nationalities) together in a morally ambiguous situation. Arriving to the town via a dubious escort, husband Astamur, wife Liza and their two children find themselves sharing the abandoned townscape with Ira, a tough, weapons-trained young woman, her sister, Azida, and teenage niece, Nata. Entirely isolated from the rest of the country, these two fragmented families work towards converting their reclaimed homes into their own spaces, whilst attempting to understand the situation they find themselves in. As the film progresses, various complications occur, tensions mount, ghosts of the past resurface, and the film slips between direct and more ethereal representation.

Glurjidze’s film bears the marks of a first-time filmmaker in some ways (the pacing and structure of the script mainly), but is astoundingly accomplished in others. All the technical departments excel in a film packed with incredible imagery. Aided by intricate, richly detailed production design, Gorka Gómez Andreus’s 4:3 camerawork is consistently breathtaking, capturing the atmospheric, rain soaked exteriors and stunningly lit, expressively green/grey-graded interiors with consistent precision and beauty. Several times, Andreus’ makes stunning use of reflective surfaces, pulling back from a puddle, mirror or passing through a windshield to reveal a wider scene, or tracking along in bravura long takes that stretch across the landscape. An immensely pictorial film, every frame is loaded with visual information, the film’s consistently grand mise-en-scene evoking a strong sense of place and mood.

Narratively, House of Others is slippery, a jigsaw of conflicts and confrontations that never quite fit together neatly. Glurjidze has made an opaque, enigmatic portrait of a specific time and place, one layered with the kind of geopolitical complexities you may expect from a place with such a complicated recent history as Georgia. A strange and beautiful musing on war’s lingering impact on not just the people, but the places it passes over, in House of Others it’s clear how difficult it is to come back together after the division of conflict. Making some final touches to the home she’s pieced together for her family, Liza solemnly announces, “this is my home now, since I have no other.”

This was originally posted on Nisimazine.

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