TIFF20: Beginning

This is the movie that derailed me this year, and not in a good way. Most of the time reviews come easily to me. I’ve always been opinionated and I don’t have trouble putting thoughts to paper screen. The hardest ones to write are usually my favourite ones, movies that have moved me and made me think and engaged me in a way that I can’t wait to share. And yet words fail – mostly because I feel so much pressure to accurately describe something I admire so much, but none of my words are adding up to quite enough. This movie is the other kind I struggle with – movies I feel I should like but don’t.

Beginning is about a Jehovah Witness community in a small provincial town that isn’t very welcoming. In fact, during an extended opening scene in a church, an extremist group firebombs the congregation, locking them in their church. Luckily they survive, but that’s quite a length worse than unwelcoming, isn’t it? Community leader David (Rati Oneli) leaves to meet with the higher-ups to decide how to resolve the rising tension, despite the fact that his shaken wife Yana (Ia Sukhitashvili) begs him not to go, and above all, not to leave her. Yana isn’t comfortable there, never has been; the people have been vocal (not to mention firebomby) about not liking them, but David insists on rebuilding, and leaves.

When Yana is alone and vulnerable, a detective (Kakha Kintsurashvili) pays her a visit, but the exchange is sinister, and fraught.

Yana is coming apart, but as David’s wife, she’s isolated. within her community. Her discontent seems to grow daily; she suffers micro-aggressions and macro-aggressions and has no one to turn to. She struggles to make sense of her own conflicting needs and desires. Her every move feels ominous, but there’s nothing to be done except watch.

Director Dea Kulumbegashvili employs extremely long takes, forcing us to really sit with thoughts, urges, even disturbing images. It’s meant to alienate us, to push us away, but does so a little too well. It’s hard to engage with the film, it’s hard to empathize with Yana despite a terrific performance by Sukhitashvili and an enormous portion of suffering heaped upon her character. Beginning is an exquisite composition of despair, Sukhitashvili a convincing woman unraveled, but as a film, it simply failed to move me.

1 thought on “TIFF20: Beginning

  1. Liz A.

    If you didn’t like it, you didn’t like it. You can appreciate what a movie meant to do, but sometimes it just doesn’t quite get all the way there.

    Like

    Reply

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