Sunday, 12 October 2014

LFF REVIEW - CORN ISLAND (GEORGE OVASHVILI)


The artificial islands on the Enguri river, formed by dirt and rocks washed up downstream, are a gift to the local farmers. These patches of fertile land are captured by Elemer Ragalyi in glowing, shimmering light, as mythical, magical spaces, bountiful and beatific. George Ovashvili depicts them in their sweet solitude as spaces of silence, retreats virtually designed for the patient people who cultivate them to grow corn for the winter. A timeless tale, one in which traditions are maintained out of necessity and modernity is inaccessible. The only suggestion of 21st Century life is in the simmering conflict, ever on the near horizon, only occasionally making itself actively known. In a lifestyle defined by the physical and the practical, we feel a palpable connection to the environment, accentuated by Ovashvili's direct style. Yet this directness hampers the film as its scenario attempts to diversify. Grandfather and granddaughter accompany one another on the island, their relationship tested in disappointingly predictable fashion by an intruder, an officer from the enemy Georgian army who has taken a fondness in the young girl. In the early stages of puberty, her angle on the story represents an outlook on womanhood that is dated and simplistic, and, within the larger context of the film, only serves as an antiquated construct, rather than refreshing a film that actually embrace its conventionality. The poeticism of Ovashvili and Ragalyi's luscious, brightly-coloured shots enhances the old-fashioned feel that has been designed here, yet engenders a steady stretch of artificiality, with actors appearing posed, their actions staged, a long way away from Corn Island's welcome fixation on the basic and the mundane. Much of it has the air of art for art's sake, when the worthy intention may have been to show a faithful representation of a curious but very true way of life.