Dir/Scr: Tinatin Gurchiani. Georgia-Germany. 2012. 97mins
A casting call for young people in the country of Georgia morphs into an offbeat, rewarding essay on diminished dreams in The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, a documentary that rambles pleasantly from one interview subject to another. Georgian filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani clearly is trying to offer a snapshot of her homeland through the assorted aspiring actors who audition for her, but she also taps into universal concerns about family, separation and identity.
Moving from light comedy to thorny drama, The Machine can feel like a collection of random short stories, and naturally some segments will be more effective than others.
Screening currently at True/False before its eventual US release through Icarus Films, The Machine looks to be a limited theatrical performer that will cater to adventurous art houses. Nonetheless, Gurchiani’s feature-length debut should help open the door for future festival appearances.
A title card near the beginning of The Machine informs us that the filmmakers sent out an ad looking for people living in Georgia from the ages of 15 to 23 to audition for an upcoming movie. Gurchiani’s documentary consists of several of the “auditions,” each person being interviewed by the off-camera director. In most cases, the auditioning person’s answers to her personal questions about their dreams or beliefs will lead to an anecdote, which she helps flesh out by following that person into their real lives and observing them.
Both high-concept and elliptical, The Machine quickly establishes its casual rhythm, introducing us to an aspiring actor and then plunging us into his or her world, repeating this routine several times over. On occasion when the film records the individual subjects’ daily lives, it’s hard to know if Gurchiani is capturing an authentic moment or having her participant recreate it. (For instance, a young man tries to help boost his incarcerated brother’s spirits by encouraging all those in the man’s life to exchange correspondence with him.) Regardless, there’s a playful, spontaneous touch to these real-world scenes that may seem inconsequential on their own but, taken together, begin to acquire a cumulative power, suggesting the shared anxieties of all those in the throes of adolescence.
With that said, although Gurchiani’s Georgian subjects face issues common to all young people, their concerns are often heightened by their country’s difficult recent past. A few subjects reference the 2008 war in Abkhazia, and either by design or coincidence several of the people we meet seem unhappy or at least discontent with their lot in life. (One of the more effecting segments is with a boy who fantasizes about how much better his life was before he was seven.) The Machine shows us a Georgia that’s largely rural and economically hurting, and so perhaps it isn’t a surprise that its subjects are so forthcoming in expressing their battered spirits. It may be true that young people in general exaggerate their anguish, but Gurchiani suggests that these men and women’s angst may indeed be more pronounced than others’.
Moving from light comedy to thorny drama, The Machine can feel like a collection of random short stories, and naturally some segments will be more effective than others. (Indeed, it seems that Gurchiani has stacked some of the better interviewees until the end.) But bolstered by Andreas Bergmann’s vivid, naturalistic camerawork, she provides this cross-section of Georgian life with a gentle touch. Even the most painful of moments — like the difficult reunion between a mother and daughter — has a compassion to it that’s disarming without shying away from the raw emotions underneath.
Production companies: Alethea, TTFilm
Domestic distribution: Icarus Films, www.icarusfilms.com/
International sales: Deckert Distribution, http://deckert-distribution.com/
Producer: Tamar Gurchiani
Cinematography: Andreas Bergmann
Editor: Nari Kim
Music: Mahan Mobashery, Marian Mentrup