The beginning of Beginning seems never-ending. The ending of Beginning seems first tragic, then strange. Between the beginning and the ending, you may just find something to hold onto.
Speaking of holds, though, first-time writer/director Dea Kulumbegashvili likes to hold shots for a long, long, long time. They’re beautifully composed and almost hypnotic or meditative at times. But one scene, which may well have been a still photograph – with star Ia Sukhitashvili sleeping on a field of green – goes on for soooo many minutes that I had to make sure I hadn’t hit “pause” by mistake.
Needless to say, Beginning, which debuts today on the Mubi subscription service, is not for everyone, especially if you like your films to zip along.
That’s not to say that Beginning lacks action. In fact, by just letting the camera sit there…as if you yourself were passively observing in person…Kulumbegashvili can shock you with the unexpected. Take that opening scene. For seven long minutes, you’re in the rear of a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Prayer House as congregants arrive and a service gets underway. If you’re like me, you’re totally bored. Then, something terrible happens to jolt you to attention.
Sukhitashvili plays Yana, the wife of a local Witnesses leader. But she’s growing restless and restricted. Indeed, with Beginning’s almost-squarish aspect ratio and Kulumbegashvili’s distanced shots held for a long time, Yana seems to be trapped in an onscreen box.
With Yana so conflicted, an alleged detective (Kakha Kintsurashvili) arrives, possibly to investigate that shocking incident at the Prayer House…or is it to seduce Yana?
Beginning is this year’s Oscar entry from the country of Georgia. It’s in Georgian, with English subtitles.
Mubi will follow the film with a Q&A, with Kulumbegashvili in conversation with Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. Perhaps they’ll answer the questions you’ll undoubtedly have by the ending of Beginning.
Mubi, which serves up a new independent movie every day, costs $10.99 monthly or $83.88 annually, both after a seven-day free trial.
(Top photo: Yana’s freeze frame on the field of green. Source IMDb)
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