“Since Otar Left” is Julie Bertuccelli’s feature film directorial debut after directing several documentaries. The former assistant to celebrated directors (including Bertrand Tavernier and Drysztof Kieslowski) based this film on a true story. She didn’t feel she could tell it as a documentary because it was too intimate.
In this film, three Georgian women, the iron-willed grandmother, Eka (90 year-old former dental assistant, Esther Gorintin, who began her acting career in 1999), her unhappy daughter, Marina (Nino Khomassouridze), and the accommodating granddaughter Ada (FREEZE, DIE, COME TO LIFE’S Dinara Droukarova) live together in their deteriorating apartment in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet Republic. Eka yearns for her adored son Otar, a physician who lives Paris and works in construction. She lives for his letters and phone calls and obsesses over them after receiving them. Eka makes it clear that she prefers Otar over her daughter, Marina, and Marina is jealous of Eka’s adulation for her brother. The granddaughter, Ada is caught in the middle of their conflicts and ends up absorbing it and compliantly acting to try to make things better. The women show each other affection and compassion, but it is not enough for Marina who feels unloved, and consequently cannot be a loving mother to Ada.
One of the themes in this story is the transmission of values and beliefs from one generation to another. Flawed thinking is passed down as well as the opportunity to break the chain and create new ways of viewing the world. At the crux of the film are the issues of lying and denial as a defense against anxiety and the harsh realities of life. Bertuccelli says: “…there is lying at every level and those lies generate more lying. As a concept, lying is fascinating. It’s a great place to set a film because it is a twin foce, both destructive and creative.” Bertuccelli doesn’t make a judgment about the lying; everyone has something to gain from the fundamental lie, and she treats lying as a fact.
“Since Otar Left” gave me the rare feeling of deep satisfaction that one gets from viewing an inspired painting or hearing a exquisite symphony. It has been a long time since I have felt this from seeing a film. The acting is stirring and brilliant. The first scene is improvised, filmed last and has no dialogue; it is meant to convey the relationships between the three women. It is killer. It made me tingle with excitement and mesmerized me from the beginning. Esther Gorintin captivated me as Eka. The self-possessed Dinara Droukarova is compelling as Ada and drew me in throughout her performance. Bertuccelli has created a masterpiece with “Since Otar Left”. It leaves me thinking and wanting to see it again.
© 2004 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 6/04
Since Otar Left
France/Belgium - 2003