To some extent this man is the epitome of Georgian code of honour in the field of art, because only his family knew Tengiz Abuladze well. The moral values he placed in his works, which are understandable to those who have seen his works.
I was extremely surprised that not everyone of my generation (about 30 years old) heard about Tengiz Abuladze. It is strange. This man was much spoken about during the period of early restructuring, particularly about the fact that he dared to talk truth about the Soviet Union in his movies when it was almost impossible.
The identity of this very bright cultural figure of Georgia was hidden from the public, so I will gladly tell you about him.
Tengiz Yevgeniyevich Abuladze was born Jan. 31, 1924 in the city of Kutaisi. Like most representatives of director’s profession, he became a director much later. In general, among the directors there is a sound tradition of getting the director’s education as a second education or even third. And it does not matter what your occupation was before: making rails, teaching children or constructing helicopters. When Tengiz was young he entered the railway technical school. After that he entered Tbilisi Theatrical Institute, where he was taught by famous George Tovstonogov. Then, of course, Tengiz entered the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), from which he graduated in 1953. His alma mater was a studio of Sergei Jutkevich and his graduate work was a film about the Georgian conductor Dimitri Arakishvili.
In 1956 Tengiz Abuladze became (so to speak) the fierce enemy of the happy-ends, showing everybody how good always triumphs over the evil … he became a realist. That’s why he started his professional career by changing the end of the movie » Magdana’s Donkey «, which is based on the story of Catherine Gabashvili. Instead of following in the footsteps of the author and give a donkey to poor widow’s children, he gave it to villain. When Abuladze was asked the question “Why did you do it?”, he answered that he didn’t want to show “the Christmas stories” , he only wanted to show the truth and «simple human life.» The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Soviet movie, which won the prize in the West.
After that Soviet critics looked askance at him. They sarcastically compared him with the Italian neo-realists (and not the unique director of “Soviet Socialist Film»).
(Shot from the film «Prayer»)
By the way, do you remember Pirosmani? I wrote about him not so long ago. So, Abuladze was often compared with Pirosmani, because he as well as Niko had the same blend of sincerity, innocence, honesty in aggressive environment, which is ready to attack and crush. That was the first reason of comparing. The second reason is that Abuladze in 60s of the last century decided to make a film about Pirosmani with actor Sergo Zakariadze as the main role, but Tengiz didn’t get the permission of State Committee for Cinematography.
Abuladze made not so much movies: » Magdana’s Donkey «(I mentioned it before), “Somebody else’s Children,» «Me, My Grandmother, Iliko and Illarion», «Prayer», “Necklace for my Darling”, “The Tree of Desire” and «Repentance» (I’ll tell you about it later). However, these seven films show the importance of quality, not quantity.
Once that rough and brutal realism, which was showed in his films, affected also Abuladze. It happened in 1978 after showing the movie “The Tree of Desire”. Abuladze got into the road accident, in which the driver died and Abuladze was so injured, that he had to recover during several months. The accident happened because of a drunk driver.
Well, as for «Repentance”. I think this movie is probably the quintessence of the creative way of Abuladze, the pivot of his directing and public life, the most famous and valuable among his all works. Imagine for a moment the following scene. 1984, blossoming era of stagnation, Brezhnev in all his glory. And here comes a film about the dictator whose image contains the features of Hitler, Mussolini, Beria, and of course … Stalin. Every turn of the plot of the movie is extremely historically recognizable, and everyone sees it. The movie shows one historical feature: «The democracy is often replaced by dictatorship. Dictatorship is always replaced by stagnation and calm.» Probably there is no dangerous thing than stagnation. The dictatorship destroys the brightest and most honest members of society, and stagnation destroys absolutely everyone without exception.
According to the plot, the dictator’s grandson committed suicide when he had found that his grandfather had been the dictator. The daughter of one of the heroes, who died in torture chamber, pulled the body of the dictator from the tomb, not allowing him to be buried in order to make people think every minute about the consequences of their inaction and indifference.
Do I have to say that the film went on the shelf immediately after the shooting? Its release was systematically sabotaged, film was spoiled several times, because at the right moment Central Committee found out that Abuladze was making the anti-Soviet film. The period of film preparation was terrible for the whole family of director, because his family was involved in making the film: his wife Mzia played a role in this movie, his grandson played in the episode, and his daughter was a co-writer. During those days Abuladze waited for a search and raid of the authorities every hour… It was a hard period.
However, it was not as bad as it can be supposed. Eduard Shevardnadze liked the film after the closed premiere and KGB became quiet. Then Gorbachev said his weighty utterance, as well as Ligachev, whose wife was the daughter of «enemy of the people». After a couple of years in 1986 at the beginning of the restricting thanks to by Elem Klimov the film was press-showed. After that it was shown to the public. Of course, it created a furore.
However, after this film Abuladze created nothing. Maybe because of the fact that he was tired, or maybe he just didn’t want to make a movie after filming «Repentance”. He died on March 6, 1994 in Tbilisi.
Thinking about the works of this man, a portrait of Georgia and its national mentality arise in your head — purity, intolerance to injustice, even though injustice always has a winning position. Nobody knows the causes of this situation. Perhaps it is cultural traditions of this country, or maybe it is the inexhaustible strength and purity of its sources. And why should we know about it? Let’s just enjoy the fact that both these concepts we can see and feel in every bottle of Borjomi:)