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Irakli Kvirikadze on Georgia and Russia, Griboedov and Catherine I

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Irakli Kvirikadze on Georgia and Russia, Griboedov and Catherine I


At the 10th International Film Festival “Pobedili Vmeste” (Common Victory) hosted in Sevastopol, Georgian scriptwriter and director Irakli Kvirikadze told Russkiy Mir when his film Griboedov will finally be released and how soon we will see the picture about Catherine I of Russia.

— Irakli, there has been no word of you in Russia for a while now – what are you working on?

I have just finished the script about the life of Catherine I the Russian Empress of Polish origin, wife of Peter the Great. It was very interesting. Catherine possessed a rare sense of humor. Her life trail is a relay race from one man to another, although she was not particularly beautiful. She had an incredible soul which Peter loved so much that he won her at the end of the race. In her past, Catherine was a brothel prostitute, later she was taken by an officer, a general, marshal Sheremetyev, and then Peter’s minion Menshikov. The latter had been hiding her for a long time, afraid the Tsar would take her away from him, which indeed happened. The story of life of this woman and her men has a lot to teach, with analogies to the celestials of the present days though they do collapse rather swiftly for the same reasons I point to in this motion picture about Catherine I. The film does not have a name yet, and it is being directed by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. I think it will be released in a year or two.

Some years ago, you and Nikita Mikhalkov were going to shoot a movie about Griboedov. You were referring to it as a canvas on Russia and Georgia. Has the project been forgotten?

Hard to say... Long ago, about twenty years back, indeed, we wrote a scenario about Alexander Griboedov. But Mikhalkov could not find the money for it. Now he is back with the topic. Griboedov is a complex personality. Without any décor as such, we wrote a scenario where there is a lot of Georgia and Russia, and where Griboedovs persona helps understand certain things in our common and complicated history. When I have recently met Nikita Mikhalkov, he promised to start directing the film on Griboedov after his work on Bunin is released.

Not so long ago, The Rainbowmaker directed by Nana Jorjadze which you wrote was awarded the jurys special prize at the Okno Fest. There you are connecting Italy and Georgia, but what about Georgia and Russia?

Italians are close to us mentally, whereas Russians culturally. Working on The Rainbowmaker I understood how the Italian history could be organically interwoven with the Georgian. I also understood that the south of Europe Spain, Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Georgia is just one mans embrace.

Is it true that the story you wrote down in the script for Luna Papa, directed by Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov, and based in Central Asia effectively took place in Georgia?

Yes, I was about to graduate from school in a Georgian province, and we had a police officer in the neighborhood, and he had a cute daughter of fifteen or sixteen a total cow-eyed fool, kind of like an overripe fig or peach about to burst... Many if not all were licking their lips looking at her. Her dad was practically convoying her around with a gun taking her to and back from school on a motorbike. But once we had this sort of cheap traveling theater come, and she went there with a bunch of girls. Her father was invited to a tavern and got stuck there. The daughter came out from the theater, stood there a while and took a shortcut home through the ravine. An actor assaulted her in the dark, did his thing and went off she didnt even see much of his face. Her belly started growing. For a cop a big shot in his own eyes thats a tragedy. So he put his girl on the bike and started following traveling troupes. They stormed into performances, he would point his fingers at actors, yelling That him? The daughter was just mumbling no or maybe. He could jump the stage when Othello was strangling Desdemona and grab his scruff...

Then it so happens, the Georgian mentality has a lot in common with the Asian, apart from the South European?

This story was dormant in my memory until German producer Karl Baumgartner asked me to write something for Khudojnazarov he had a contract with. I borrowed an old index book from the Union of Cinematographers, wrote down a dozen Kazakh first and last names, scrambled them up and made a Georgian story into a Kazakh one, just like I used to in the Soviet days for Olzhas Suleimenov.

You did not answer the question though...

Heres another story. Its the sixties. I, a director-to-be, am traveling to Moscows Goskino to commission a movie I have completed. They were rehabilitating Stalin those days: Brezhnev really wanted to be the new great field marshal. And there you go a Georgian with a movie showcasing the Great Helmsman in some weird mix. In one of the episodes, a boy drops Stalins bust into a fish tank, his neighbor spots it and reports the boy. Another episode is a mass swim race with Stalins portrait on a float. And I remember those swims in Georgia very well, when four to five thousand people simultaneously waded into the sea and swam alongside boats, and floats, and slogans, and portraits of the leaders framed in paper flowers. So, theyre watching credits, lights on, and all them stone-faced, a horrible pause. Ermash, the Goskino Committee Chairman, gets up and leaves. He turns on the doorstep and says: Burn that film. Soon, the Georgian branch of Goskino receives a telegram ordering to strip me of the rank of a filmmaker. Thats how I became a scriptwriter... So there, its something about the differences and the commonalities of mindsets. Thats the way people are: finding affinity of souls and their incompatibility where they probably should not have even looked... And then, like with Luna Papa, you get a universally human story...

So, you are looking for stories to your scripts in yourself and your life, as to reflect times and eras?

Something like that... Modern plots dont grab me. But the old memories stick around like aged wine. When I was a child, I loved to listen to the old men. Clad in service jackets a la Stalin, and as all respectable people should, they sat through the evenings in coffee shops, drank dreadfully strong coffee, and smoked the fierce Samsun tobacco they had their fingers smoked tar-brown. They were a bit deaf and always yelled, imagining this was how you told tall tales in half voice, with stories often being sexually explicit a never-ending Decameron of a kind. It was from them I heard the story of Georgian swimmer Durmishkhan Dumbadze who, upon learning that some French guy swam across the English Channel, said he would swim across two of those. And he did. He dove into the sea in Batumi and in two days came ashore in Poti thats about sixty kilometers...

Interviewed by Anna Loschikhina

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