Repentance (Pokayaniye) features Avtandil Makharadze in a dual role. As Georgian mayor Varlam Aravidze, Makharadze is a strutting, arbitrarily cruel dictator, something of a composite Stalin and Hitler. Visually he very closely resembles Lavrentiy Beriya, Stalin’s right hander and one-time KGB chief. As Abel, the mayor’s son, Makharadze finds himself in the middle of an ideological squabble when his father dies. Zeinab Botsvadze, a local woman who had suffered mightily under the mayor’s regime, refuses to allow the old man’s corpse to be interred. Despite the son’s Herculean efforts, Botsvadze continues digging up the late mayor’s body, a symbolic gesture to prevent the dead man’s villainy from being forgotten. Repentance was the first Soviet film that openly denounced the horrors of Stalinism, though the Georgian director Tengiz Abuladze (known for his poetic and surrealist films) chose to make it allegorical, deliberately using anachronisms and making the leading character look like a combination of Stalin’s henchman Lavrenti Beriya, Hitler, and Mussolini. An interesting point — the last name chosen for the leading character is totally fictional, there is no such name as Aravidze in Georgia. In fact, “aravi” means “nobody” in Georgian. The filmmakers opted for such a name in order not to offend any real person in the Republic of Georgia. Filmed in 1984, Repentance fell victim to Soviet censorship from the moment it left the editing room. When it was finally released in 1987, the film was deservedly garlanded with several awards, including the Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Prize.
ial turn this film into a searing allegory of the brutal repressions, and heroic sacrifices, of the country’s Stalinist era—–by Hal Erickson Read More »