TANGERINES. 2013. WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ZAZA URUSHADZE. STARRING LEMBIT ULFSAK, ELMO NÜGANGEN, GIORGI NAKASHIDZE AND MIKHEIL MESKHI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is an utterly gorgeous film. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, it’s out on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of Axiom Films from the end of January 2016 and you’d have to be pure nuts to miss out on seeing it, haha. When I watched it recently, it blew me away. I’d even go so far as to say that it was a privilege, an actual privilege, to have been able to see it, that’s how good it is.
It’s the story of an Estonian man in his sixties called Ivo. Ivo lives in a rural village in Abkhazia Georgia. He’s one of only a few people who stayed on in the village after the Abkhazian War broke out in 1992/3, instead of legging it back to their native Estonia and safety.
His near neighbour and best friend is Margus. The pair make their living from crating and selling the titular tangerines that grow in the orchards on their lands. While the war goes on nearby, they just quietly work away. Margus hopes to return to Estonia after the current crop of tangerines is harvested. We’re not sure of Ivo’s plans. He’s a deep one, is Ivo. Let’s talk about him a little more.
He’s grey-haired with a beard but he’s also extremely handsome. He’s quiet, obviously highly intelligent and hard-working. He lives alone in his little cottage with only the war news on the radio and a picture of his beloved grand-daughter, who’s gone to Estonia, for company. He’s obviously suffered in the past, is maybe still suffering, but he doesn’t talk about it. He just goes quietly about the business of building crates for Margus’s tangerines and being a good friend to his neighbour.
A twist of fate results in an extraordinary situation unfolding in Ivo’s cottage. A skirmish between Georgian volunteers and Chechen mercenaries outside Margus’s house leads to Ivo giving house-room to two recovering wounded, each on opposite sides of the war. The Georgian chap is called Nika, the Chechen man Ahmed.
The two sworn enemies are nursed back to health under Ivo’s roof, each threatening the other with death every chance they get. Ivo keeps the peace between the two squabbling adversaries the way a loving father might. Under his close supervision, these two basically decent and honourable men learn a thing or two about being part of the human race, something that’s ultimately more important even than being on opposing sides of two warring factions.
What is it about deep powerful friendships between grown men that gets you right in the heartstrings? When men in films form friendships like the one that develops between the four male leads here, it can be the saddest, sweetest thing ever, surpassing any amount of girlish giggling and confidence-sharing between the chicks in the rom-coms. Just look at the scene where Ivo and Margus are sitting in silence together on Margus’s land, no need for any words at all between them. Can women ever just sit in companionable silence with each other, or do they always have to be yammering away? It’s okay, I can say that, I’m a chick too, see…?
The development of mutual respect and brotherhood between Ahmed and Nika, clearly brought about and nurtured by Ivo, is beautiful beyond belief to witness. Will anything happen to shatter the fragile bonds newly-forged by the pair? And if it does, where will Ivo and Margus go from there…? The answers, my friends, may not be blowing in the wind but they’re right there in this thought-provoking and heartbreaking film for all to see.
The Estonian scenery is stunning. Several of the shots of the little village look like actual paintings hanging in an art gallery, they’re so gorgeous. The film’s theme tune is bleak and haunting. I’m no musician, but it sounds like someone’s plucking away on one of those balalaika things. It’s definitely a stringed instrument, that much I can tell. If I’m wrong, please correct me. Do, I love that, haha. Anyway, watch this film, please. It’s an absolute masterpiece of an anti-war statement. You’ll love it.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can contact her at: