Euronews Culture Film of the Week: “What do we see when we look at the sky?”

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 5 Min Read
origin 1Aleksandre Koberidze What do we see when we look at the sky? ©DFFB

What a joy it is when a film that premieres at a film festival doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and is finally seen by the public, even if it’s not in theaters and arrives a year later.

Having premiered at the 2021 Berlinale in Competition, What do we see when we look at the sky? is finally out on the MUBI streaming platform, and it’s not one you want to miss.

Aleksandre Koberidze’s Georgian-German co-production is a stunning modern fable that explores the magic of chance encounters, the celebration of the extraordinary that we so often dismiss as the monotony of everyday life… and the (non-Qatari) world Cup.

It is, without any hint of hyperbole, a transcendent masterpiece.

origin 1What do we see when we look at the sky?DFFB

Imagine the scene.

Kutaisi, on the Rioni River – Georgia.

You randomly bump into someone and pick up the book they just dropped.

Without warning, it is like this: somehow, you fell in love.

We witness this nice Bressonian encounter between the pharmacist Lisa (Oliko Barbakadze) and the footballer Giorgi (Giorgi Ambroladze), who fix an appointment for the following evening.

Disaster strikes when the vile ways of the evil eye come into play. In fact, a spell is cast on them and their physical features are transformed, in the sense that when the two accursed would-be lovers (now played by Ani Karseladze and Giorgi Bochorishvili) show up for the appointment, they no longer recognize each other…

With this change in appearance come other problematic changes as well. Giorgi can no longer play football, while Lisa can no longer practice as a pharmacist. Both must find a new lease of life – with the two taking on new jobs within meters of each other…

origin 1Lisa in What do we see when we look at the sky?DFFB

It’s rare to see a film that sincerely celebrates the extraordinary in the everyday and sees traditional folklore and curses as part of the very fabric of everyday life. There is also a noticeable lack of obtrusive technology throughout the film, as if to say that our addiction to screens has made us numb to fully see the beauty in the seemingly mundane.

The camera gives a lot of time to the city of Kutaisi, but it also gives equal time and frame to all the non-human things, such as dogs, grass, gutters and, of course, football.

We experience this through Iranian DP Faraz Fesharaki’s lush and transporting cinematography, which makes the city seem like a timeless bubble. He uses a mix of digital shooting and soft grain 16mm to evoke a dreamlike haze, which lightens in a delicately poetic way.

It is in this dreamscape that Koberidze creates a well-orchestrated bedtime story, an ode to the unseen forces that bring people together, culminating in a metatextual resolution that can be interpreted as a Valentine’s card to the magic of cinema and the its transformative effects.

After all, like a curse, cinema is a form of magic, one that reveals something that the eye cannot always see.

What do we see when we look at the sky it’s a wonderfully romantic and mischievous folk tale whose soulful lucubrations about identity and perception strike a truly invigorating chord. Admittedly, its 151-minute runtime won’t be for everyone, and its loose narrative is fueled by folkloric whim rather than traditional logic. But get on its wavelength and you’ll want to bask in this particular blend of timeless romance and magical realism for twice as long.

What do we see when we look at the sky? is currently streaming on MUBI.

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