Everybody's Gone

Everybody's Gone


Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

Because it’s so easy to overstate a debut filmmaker’s familial bond to a more well-known name, it would be reductive, unfair and arbitrary to make too much of the fact that Georgy Parajanov is the nephew of the late (and to many great) Georgian-born Armenian director Sergei Parajanov. Following his 2004 Cannes-closing documentary I Died In Childhood, which was about and dedicated to his late uncle, though, Georgy Parajanov’s debut feature Everybody’s Gone (Vse Ushli) is inspired in part by both his own memories and those stories inherited from others in the small Georgian town he grew up in.

Like his uncle’s films, though, the history and geography to which Parajanov’s film alludes is so specific that much of its narrative significance appears beyond one’s grasp. Even in terms of its basic story, one might feel at times defeated – who’s who, what are they doing here, and so on. A period piece, it dramatises the interrelations of a small Soviet community as seen through the eyes of Gary (Zura Kipshidze), a left-handed orphan whose superstitious grandmother forces him to draw with his right hand. Befriending a local magician named Cisa (Avtandil Makharadze), Gary reluctantly enters an adolescence the basic realities of which others wish to keep from him; he finds the adult community and the customs to which it adheres by turns confusing and intriguing.

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Superstitions pervade this community, and Parajanov is clearly keen to undercut the folkloric traditions of his country’s narrative – which matches his young protagonist’s coming of age and which puts more fanciful romances on a collision course with life’s harsh truths. Note, for instance, a moment late on when one character asks how another (lying deceased) was granted the Order of Lenin, to which someone else conjures a fib to do with gallantry; we cut subsequently to the character who passed on the medal as a gift, denying any sense of heroism.

Despite, or perhaps because of its cultural specificity, though, Everybody’s Gone seems to have been made with a certain universal aesthetic in mind. That is, regardless of the intricacies and nuances of plot and attention to local detail, there’s that dreaded sense early on that we’ve trudged through such terrain before. The film feels longer than its two-hour duration precisely because its tone seems so unsustainably whimsical (somewhere among my notes I’ve written “it feels Italian”).

As a generally unwieldy communal sketch, Everybody’s Gone lacks in its early passages a dramatic anchor, while in its latter stages one feels the toothless and lethargic flab its director was seemingly unwilling to cut. Handsomely shot by Sergei Machilski throughout, though, Parajanov’s film ends with an exceptional final image, one that hopefully points to a future project concerning the more pressing melancholies of the present-day.

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2013
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Magical perspectives on life in a small Georgian town, as seen through the eyes of a small boy.

Director: Georgy Paradzhanov

Writer: Georgy Parajanov

Starring: Zurab Kipchidze, Aram Makagyan, Natalia Kolyakanova

Year: 2012

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: Russia, Georgia, Czech Republic


EIFF 2013

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