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Small Georgian village (ca. 1890) Magdana a widow lives in a shack with her 3 children and ekes out a living selling yogurt. When the children find a donkey lying by the road and nurse it to health, it seems the family's troubles are over.
This early Soviet-era short from Georgian film-making master Otar Iosseliani is a beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable, and affecting comedy/drama.
Iosseliani hasn't quite perfected his craft yet, but compared to early efforts from similarly talented directors, his work is comparatively distinctive. This short still contains the combination of playfulness and meaningful, yet not preachy or overbearing, commentary that would become key to his eventually fully developed style.
The story is simple but involving, and revolves around a young couple who are initially delighted about the apartment and services that have been provided for by the Soviet state, then slowly the things they love begin to crumble around them, with the couple becoming increasingly alienated, culminating in a symbol of their love, an ancient tree, being chopped down in order to build more of the furniture etc. that is tearing them apart.
The end of the film sees the tenants of the building throwing all their furniture out of their windows, disposing of their problems.
Iosseliani has a simple, beautiful sense of storytelling, and though this short is a tad rough around the edges, it is still impressive both in terms of writing (the film does not include any dialogue, incidentally, bar the odd whisper), and in technical terms, as the young Iosseliani clearly understands the art well already and expertly uses elements such as sound to his advantage.
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