One summer day in the ancient magical city of Kutaisi, pharmacist Lisa and footballer Giorgi collide. They meet again, this time in the evening, and, instantly falling in love, arrange the next date without ever learning each other’s names. On the way home, four messengers—a seedling, a CCTV camera, the wind, and a rain gutter—vainly try to warn Lisa about the evil eye. The next morning Giorgi and Lisa wake up in new bodies, having lost all their knowledge—his about football, hers about medicine. Not recognizing each other in the café where they agreed to meet, both are hired to work there, hoping to see each other again. This fairy tale by Alexandre Koberidze, a DFFB (German Film and Television Academy) graduate and a unique emerging voice in Georgian cinema, premiered internationally in the main competition of the 2021 Berlinale, where it was awarded the FIPRESCI prize.
If Koberidze’s debut Let the Summer Never Come Again (2017), a three-hour gay love drama about an underground boxer and a military man shot with an old Sony Ericsson cell phone, was a symphony to Tbilisi, his second feature is a symphony to Kutaisi on the eve of the football World Cup, set to the music of Schubert, Debussy, and an original score by the director’s brother Giorgi Koberidze. The protagonists are once again accompanied by the narrator’s voiceover— this time male—and slightly fewer analytical intertitles, which not only make digressions on serious topics (such as the ecological disaster) but also openly flirt with the viewer by setting them certain tasks. This adventurous mood permeates the whole film. It is much more touching and sunny than Let the Summer Never Come Again, while also being fantastically beautiful and cinephilic. The film features both stylization as silent cinema through the use of letterboxing (the scenes where music overlaps speech) and allusions to Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory and the use of epigraphs, with texts by Georgian scriptwriters Rezo Cheishvili and Levan Chelidze. The minor storyline about the director Nino shooting her own film entitled Stray Dogs Caressed by the Wind gradually becomes the main one. Together with cinematographer Irakli and photographer Ana, Nino is looking for six couples, aiming to end her film with shots of them. At some point she meets Giorgi and Lisa in their new bodies. What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is an ode to urban children, stray dogs, and the magic of the everyday, shot with an eye on Robert Bresson. But above all, it’s an ode to cinema, which restores faith not only in the medium per se but also in its ability to heal, remove the evil eye, and see in people what they don’t see in themselves.
The film will be screened in Georgian with Russian subtitles.
What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?
Dir. Alexandre Koberidze
Germany, Georgia, 2021. 150 min. 12+