And Then We Danced – Film Review
by Frank L
Director: Levan Akin
Writer: Levan Akin
Stars: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili
Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a young man who comes from a family of traditional Georgian dancers even if his estranged father gave up after some success. Merab’s partner from childhood is Mary (Ana Javakishvili). They attend the Georgian national dance centre which is run by an arch conservative Aliko (Kakha Gogidze) who disapproves of Merab’s expressiveness when he dances. He wants Merab to be like “a nail” to symbolize the strength of Georgian dance. But such a view of Georgian traditional dance is coming under challenge as the chatter in the changing rooms is about Zaza who was dismissed from the national company as a result of showing his homosexual instincts.
Merab’s extended family live in a cramped apartment on very little money and Merab works as a part-time waiter to help pay the bills. He helps feed the family with leftovers from the restaurant. His handsome brother Luka (Levan Gabrava) is more interested in pushing drugs and screwing girls than perfecting his dance skills or supporting the family.
There arrives into the dance class from the provinces Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) whose wearing of a small gold earring offends Aliko. He is a gifted dancer and represents a rival to Merab. However, notwithstanding that he has a girlfriend, Irakli and Merab are drawn to each other. It is their relationship which is central to the story and Levan Akin, who also wrote the script, shows with intelligence and insight the resulting joys and frustrations. But the visual core of the film is Gelbakhiani as he shows all his skills as a dancer. It is mesmerising and it takes on a further depth when he performs with Gabrava.
Akin also depicts the financial grind to make ends meet which a family like that of Merab endures. There are few ways of escape although Luka finds the traditional one of getting a rich girl pregnant who he has to marry to save her family’s reputation. This results in a series of fine scenes showing the wedding and the reception. It is a world of spaciousness and ease in marked contrast to that of the cramped apartment.
This is a beautifully crafted film. It tells a familiar story of two young lovers who have various obstacles to surmount which are thrown in their path. It is not an extraordinary story but it is told with an understanding of some of the societal pressures which surrounded Merab and Irakli. It is memorable and worth seeing.