only a matter of time before Georgian-born Géla Babluani
gets his international due as an emerging director. He already
gave us the harrowing 13 Tzameti (2005), which won
the World Cinema Dramatic Prize at the Sundance Film Festival
and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award at the Venice Film Festival.
And now, he continues that excellent work with the more complicated
The Legacy (L’Héritage), which suspensefully
deals with long standing family feuds in the context of feuding
cultures (French versus Georgian).
follow Nikolai (Pascal Bongard), a Georgian translator, who
is hired by three French tourists to visit a castle one of
them has inherited. On an old rickety bus that takes them
through postcard spectacular landscape, they are introduced
to some of the local characters who seem to harbour vaguely
sinister, malevolent thoughts. When an older man, accompanied
by his his grandson (played by George Babluani,) boards the
bus with a coffin, the tourists are of course curious, and
learn that the coffin is intended for the grandfather, who
has agreed to be killed in order to put an end to a longstanding
family feud. Thoroughly fascinated by the bizarre circumstance,
they decide to tag along in order to video tape the event,
but are cautioned not to interfere -- or else. What compels
them to tape the event is never explicitly addressed.
our unsurprise, things go wrong, and then very wrong. Babluani
skillfully interweaves the story line and the developing,
detail accumulating suspense, but with a distinctly European
sensibility. Viewers that have been raised on Hollywood suspense
might initially find this film slow going, only to discover
that its pacing is of the highest artistic order, one that
deserves an approving nod from the master of suspense himself
-- Alfred Hitchcock.
Babluani’s agenda is complex, which
is why this film is perhaps ultimately more satisfying than
13 Tzameti. As with Franz Kafka, whose protagonist
Joseph K. never finds The Castle, the sidetracked
tourists never reach their destination. Instead, they are
made to confront the backwardness of family feuds that prejudice
families against each other over disputes that may have taken
place centuries ago.
But however indictable is family feuding, the counsel offered
by the tourists, who in their conceit take it upon themselves
to interfere in traditions about which they know next to nothing,
only serves to worsen an already desperate situation. Since
they consider themselves more savvy and sophisticated than
their primitive Georgian hosts, they assume they have all
the right answers for everything. They rudely discover au
contraire. Meanwhile, the broader implications of this
isolated incident continue to fall on the deaf ears of the
inveterately meddling West.
Legacy, which was featured at the
2007 Cinémania Film Festival (Montreal),
benefits from a laconic but vivid script (penned by Babluani
and his father), and from character development that speaks
to the authenticity of personages that we might easily mistake
for real life characters. The unsullied, pristine landscape
plays an important role, throwing into relief the mostly fatally
flawed mentality of villagers for whom the beauty of their
surroundings is nothing more than an afterthought.
gave this haunting, wholly engrossing film 3.4 out of 4.