Written in 1981 and okayed under the Brezhnev administration by Eduard Shevardnadze, REPENTANCE was filmed in Soviet Georgia, the homeland of Stalin, as a television project. It was shelved from 1984 until 1987, when, under Gorbachev, the Union of Cinematographers liberated it from state
censorship. Before 1987 came to a close, REPENTANCE had won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was named as the Soviet Union's official entry in the Academy Awards' Foreign-Language Film category. As the film opens, Ketevan Barateli (Zejnab Botsvadze), a cake decorator, learns of
the death of the aged Varlam Aravidze (brilliantly played by Avtandil Makharadze, who also plays the deceased man's son), a highly revered Georgian mayor whose physical appearance and personality is a composite of Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, and Lavrenti Beria, Stalin's chief of secret police.
Later that evening, after the dignitary's funeral, the freshly buried corpse keeps reappearing in his family's garden, despite all attempts at reinterment. The grave robber turns out to be the cake decorator, who is apprehended and tried. As she explains her actions to the court, the film flashes
back to the Stalinist era, and a terrible history for which the living are still culpable is laid bare. A powerful, intelligent, and visually poetic picture, REPENTANCE condemns not only Stalinism but those who try to bury it. The film is also a plea for religious freedom, filled with religious
iconography. Many of its dreamy images (such as that of the painter and his wife buried, except for the faces, under a pile of rocks while the mayor sings an aria) are unforgettable, although Abuladze's use of them sometimes becomes too generous. Still, REPENTANCE stands as one of the finest films
to be released as a result of glasnost.
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- Released: 1987
- Rating: PG
- Review: Written in 1981 and okayed under the Brezhnev administration by Eduard Shevardnadze, REPENTANCE was filmed in Soviet Georgia, the homeland of Stalin, as a television project. It was shelved from 1984 until 1987, when, under Gorbachev, the Union of Cinemato… (more)