Tangerines DVD Review

DVD Review by Jon E Clist

The Premise
War in Georgia, Apkhazeti region 1992: local Apkhazians are fighting to break free from Georgia. Estonian village between the mountains has become empty, almost everyone has returned to their homeland, only 2 men have stayed: Ivo and Margus. But Margus will leave as soon as he has harvested his crops of tangerines. In a bloody conflict in their miniature village wounded men are left behind, and Ivo is forced to take them in. But they are from opposite sides of the war.

The Review
Often when we think of war we are focused on the battles, the bloodshed and the soldiers, yet there is everyday life still going on amidst the conflict. It is hard for us modern youth living in safe countries far from war to grasp what it must be like to have war thrust upon you in your town, village or city. I think that is why this film really moved me. Here is the story of two men who chose to stay behind when war comes to their little community. Everyone else has left and travelled back to their homeland of Estonia and on the surface Ivo and Margus have stayed purely to harvest the tangerines.

Tangerines is the first Estonian feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award, and in the film there is an interesting conversation amongst the characters about the local film community having no money and there being little or no local films being made.
One thing I found kind of funny is that in the language of the film you hear the fruit being called Mandarins and yet the on-screen subtitled translation is Clementines. Therefore at no time in the film are they referred to as Tangerines. A quick search online tells me that all three fruits are actually different. Sure they come from the same family of fruit, yet they are different. A small thing overall and yet I actually like that it has happened this way. Kind of like the three groups of people involved in this story, Georgians, Estonians and Chechens. All three of these nationalities come from the same geographical area and yet are different and really have their own identity. Perhaps this is something that the filmmaker actually did on purpose or perhaps it is a happy accident, either way I love it. In a small confined house three separate ethnicities must live and attempt to find humanity.

For about a month a year in our neck of the woods we get to be woken up by the sound of gunfire as our locals’ transition into duck-hunting season, I cannot imagine what it would be like to have that happen around us knowing that it was actually people shooting at other people. Tangerines tells this tale in a very real and clever way. For the most part the film is about general life amidst this chaos and it is only at a couple of stages when war comes to them face on. However each time it leaves its pain, turmoil and scars. The rest of the film is about that effect on them.

It has been simply filmed in a style that lets the story and the characters become the focus and not the effects or action. While the conversations between the characters are interesting and believable, they have not been contrived to be amazingly deep philosophy or bumper sticker style dialogue. There are some films where the script writer sends so much time trying to craft the perfect monologue that will move the soul that they forget to give credibility to the characters that must deliver them. In Tangerines the characters deliver the moments of truth through simple dialogue and their own charisma's rather than deep and contrived language. Amazingly enough the script was written within two weeks, demonstrating a good story doesn't need fluff.

The Verdict
A cleverly told tale of how war destroys nearly everything that it touches and yet humanity can still be found amidst the chaos and there is still hope for those it hits. A compelling and lovely film.

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 6th January 2016
Rating: M – Contains violence and offensive language
Duration: 87 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Misha Meskhi, Giorgi Nakashidze, Elmo Nüganen, Raivo Trass, Lembit Ulfsak
Director: Zaza Urushadze (Ak tendeba)

The Extras
Official submission of Estonia to the best foreign language film category of the 87th Academy Awards 2015.

Giorgi Nakashidze who plays the role of Chechen Ahmed is Georgian

The movie is dedicated to Levan Abashidze. A well-known Georgian actor who was killed in Abkhazian war

The movie was about to happen two years ago. Lembit Ulfsak already asked the days off his regular theatre-work, even packed the bag, however the film-making was cancelled due to the financial difficulties. This time he was much more careful and felt even embarrassed to ask the days off from his theatre again.