Scriptwriters: Zaira Arsenishvili, Lana Gogoberidze
Director: Lana Gogoberidze
Composer: Giya Kancheli
Cast: Zurab Kipshidze, Giorgi Pipia, Tinatin Vardanashvili, Eka Magalashvili, David Abashidze
The glory of the Georgian cinema of the 1960s–80s came from various film parables: sometimes meditative, sometimes grotesque, and sometimes intensely symbolic. Against this background, Lana Gogoberidze’s social drama “When Almonds Blossomed” (1973) looked even more unusual and immediately promoted its author to the front ranks of the national film directors (and this - after more than dozen years of solid, quite successful work in the profession.) The daughter of a party functionary and the first Georgian woman film director, both arrested in 1937 during the Great Purge, began to be perceived, first of all, as an artist that deals with acute social problems. It was in this capacity that she asserted herself in the future as well. According to the recollections of contemporaries, many went to watch her most famous film "Several Interviews on Personal Issues" (1979) specifically in order to hear with their own ears the phrase “Are there already people who have ceased to be afraid?” (Epple N. Neudobnoe proshloe [An Inconvenient Past]. M., 2021. S. 449.)
However, the story about the perniciousness of permissiveness, which leads the young representative of the "golden youth" driving his father’s "Volga" to a tragedy, did not impress one with its special depth even then. Of course, it acquired particular relevance in connection with the rise to the leadership of Georgia – precisely during the making of the film – of Eduard Shevardnadze, who declared war on corruption and protectionism. And yet, the obvious, perceived by everybody (but not fully understood) significance of Lana Gogoberidze's work was in something else. The death of a friend through the fault of the hero takes place in the penultimate part of the film - and this is the denouement of the tragedy. But the action unfolds in its anticipation. It is in the restless, nervous, from the very first shots, rhythms of the music of Giya Kancheli. It is in the anxiety, the reflection of which repeatedly falls on the beautiful, spiritual (and the further, the more painfully focused) faces of young actors - Tinatin Vardanashvili, Giorgi Pipia and, of course, the main character Zura performed by Zurab Kipshidze - what you will not find in his face is even a hint of the "golden boy"’s complacency.
The aesthetics here, it would seem, comes from the 1960s, with their documentarism, which in Gogoberidze’s film acquires the allure of "cinema-verite". And we find the characters floating in the spring street flow of people, merrily exchanging phrases with each other - the classic beginning of a "youth film". But, as the plot procedes, close-ups of faces push the blooming spring atmosphere out of the frame: the characters retreat into themselves. The rules that the children are taught and according to which the "high and mighty" themselves, like Zura’s father, live, alarm the children and disturb them.
The tragic fault of the protagonist is in delaying his imminent rebellion over the course of the film. Like his friend and his beloved, he does not accept these rules, but suffers from an almost Hamletian indecision. (The actor will later play the Prince of Denmark in a film, in “The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza”.) Is this why the scene of the decisive catastrophic conversation with his beloved will suddenly remind one of a dialogue between Hamlet and Ophelia? He transfers the anger that he feels at himself because of a lack of determination to escape his father’s power to the people closest to him. And, in fact, destroys their lives. Only after seeing with his own eyes the fatality of this path, Zura finally makes his choice.
And so the youth film of the 1960s turns into the “cinema of moral concern” of the next decade.
Tenth grader Zura Mamatsashvili from Tbilisi is growing up in a family of influential people. His father wants his son to be the best in everything and, for the sake of his offspring’s brilliant future, he is ready to turn the blind eye to the offense that took the life of another person. While the father is trying to hush up his son’s guilt, Zura wants to confess everything and answer for his actions.