In a sleepy provincial town, a Jehovah’s Witness community is attacked by an extremist group. In the midst of this conflict, the familiar world of Yana, the wife of the community leader, slowly crumbles. Yana’s inner discontent grows as she struggles to make sense of her desires.
Georgia’s entry for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ award at this years Oscars is a slow burning drama about one woman’s attempts to express herself in a hostile environment. The film is ‘Beginning’ and the woman is Yana, a Jehovah’s Witness who has become disillusioned with her life as part of the community. It is directed by Déa Kulumbegashvili in her feature debut, and she’s crafted a haunting and evocative piece of work that relies heavily on long shots that linger, often in the same position, creating a mood that puts the viewer in Yana’s headspace as she experiences several key events.
‘Beginning’ opens with a firebombing attack of the community’s Kingdom Hall, in a frightening and sudden burst of violence, and this is the straw that breaks the camels back for Yana, who had been doubting her faith and her place in a patriarchal religious society for some time. This brings her into conflict with two men – her husband David, a religious leader in the community, and a Detective, who has been sent to investigate the fire. Both men do not understand her, nor do they try to truly understand her, and their reactions and behaviour go a long way in demonstrating why Yana wishes to forge a new life for herself and her son.
There are interesting moments in ‘Beginning’ and the sporadic bursts of shocking violence are used well to punctuate the mostly dialogue free narrative, but I really struggled to get on board with the film as a whole. I could empathise with the difficult life Yana has and how she has to cope with at best (bad word choice) misogyny, and at worst, sexual violence, but I thought the film was quite dull and slow at times and it never really engaged me completely. Déa Kulumbegashvili’s debut shows the talent of a filmmaker with a bright future and I’ll be intrigued to see her next film, but in terms of ‘Beginning’, that connection wasn’t there.
Directed By: Déa Kulumbegashvili
Starring: Ia Sukhitashvili, Rati Oneli, Kakha Kintsurashvili and Saba Gogichaishvili