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'In Bloom' Is A Thrilling Story Of Feminine Rebellion In Wartime
Just over the border near Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics open today, lies a country not nearly as famous as the American southern state shares its name. Georgia, a small republic lying on the shore of the Black Sea, regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union but remains locked in a war with Russia over two breakaway regions. The immediate post-Soviet history of Georgia is that of civil war, and that war is an enormous presence in the world depicted in In Bloom, Georgia's submission for this year's Academy Awards.
In Bloom is semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story by Nana Ekvtimshvili (co-directed with Simon Gross) told through the eyes of of two 14-year-old girls, Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria), who see the civil war in the form of bread lines, occasional blackouts and news broadcasts. Oleg Mutu's cinematography in work here is very akin to his work in major films of the Romanian New Wave (including 4 Months, 3 Weeks, And 2 Days and The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu). It is never showy but always austere and full of patience, allowing viewers to immerse themselves without being overwhelmed with overflowing compositions or look-at-me camera gymnastics. The girls' home is the new capital of Tbilisi is in a state of perpetual dysfunction. This trickles down all the way to the adults that inhabit their lives: teachers, parents, and neighbors are all either absent, ineffectual or bullies.
The world of In Bloom is cold and incompassionate for Eka and Natia. The girls are forced to reckon with the patriarchal dominance that fills the power vacuum through whatever means they can. They resort to the common currency of violence—or at least the threat of violence. Although this tension is very much woven into the fabric of this languid and mostly observational film, In Bloom's most cathartic and exciting moment comes not from the fulfillment of the threat but in an emotional release from Eka. At the wedding of Natia, who has been coerced into marriage through a threat of violence, Eka performs a solo dance that all at once is a declaration of her individuality, a proclamation of devotion to her best friend, and an act of rebellion that is simply one of the most thrilling moments you are bound to see on the screen.
In Bloom opens today at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 (Beverly Hills) and Playhouse 7 (Pasadena).