Tamar Shavgulidze’s sophomore film ‘Comets’ (2019) unfurls at an unhurried pace in airy, pastoral villa, like an indolent and languid life in the idyllic countryside of Georgia. The time feels suspended in the lush green backyard as if the forthcoming drama would crumble under its weight. The sound of still air, of insects and birds, appear vivid.
Even at a modest running length of 70 mins, Shavgulidze languorously let the past of two teenagers trickle into the narrative without frantically opening it up to establish the intensity of their torrid affair. She indulges in long pauses, aching silences and leisure moments to make aware of the characters, the conflict, and their boundless love.
‘Comets’ opens with Sylvia Plath’s quote, reading, “The comets have such a space to cross, such coldness, forgetfulness,” and elemental, trippy sci-fi score that fade-in to two teenagers – Nana & Irina – watching a sci-fi movie in the court. It fast-forwards to three decades in the present.
Irina (Nino Kasradze) returns to the town to settle inheritance after the death of her last family member. She takes this opportunity to confront her past, to meet Nana (Ketevan Gegeshidze) after three-decade in the same backyard they watched the film. She appears like a comet in the life of Nana and their ill-fated romantic relationship. Upon the disclosure of the true nature of their relationship, Nana got married to a man in their locality while Irina chose to fill her emptiness going around places and educating herself.
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The awkward reunification rekindles their muted feelings that echo in their long, silenced glances. The long pauses feel like as if the screen has frozen, but in the actuality, the time has come to standstill. The apparent weightlessness of the proceeding is anchored by the gargantuan of subdued emotions unwinding itself, that dissipates through an uncomfortable and curious examination of each other on the screen.
Shavgulidze never provides an easy answer. She never reassures that thing might end well for the two lovers separated by thirty years. The narrative constantly toggles between the present and the past, but it never appears like a flashback. The shift in the past feels like an extension of their recollection of indelible memories.
Nodar Nozadze editing is remarkable to help dissolve the past and present. Giorgi Shvelidze sublime photography in a single location elicits fresh warmth and tenderness even with the slight change of angle. ‘Comets’ is undeniably a beautiful romantic drama that leaves you wanting more after the absurd ending. Shavgulidze’s understated writing and low key direction leave adequate space for the actor to make the character their own, and emote without any contrivance and artifice.