Post-Soviet Cinema and the New Postcolonialism
One thing that jumped to mind when I had concluded In Bloom is that it holds a fairly unique place in cinema, one that I’m not sure has been fully examined or surveyed just yet. The story of this film is a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of Tblisi, Georgia in 1992; shortly after the independence of the new nation. In essence what you have is a slice-of-life look at a new-age postcolonialism.
Much postcolonial cinema deals with the Old World and the colonies spawned from its outward expansion. Therefore, the tales both about the colonial age, and the cinemas born in new nations (mainly those in Latin America), were the First Wave of Postcolonial Films.
However, as this film underscores, there is a New Wave of Postcolonial Films to consider and that is of the former Soviet states. Throughout the entire history of the cinema (barring a brief period where Georgia declared independence following the Bolshevik revolution and was under British protection) Georgia has been a part of another nation and with no outlet to express its national identity to the world at large.
In the early 1990s with the collapse of communism 15 new Post-Soviet nation-states came into being. That’s 15 new cinemas, new voices and a brand-new wave of post-colonialism in the world. That’s just out of Russia alone, when you consider the division of the former Yugoslavia, and other changes in the Balkans, you can see this is not a small topic. It’s subject that would make a fascinating research and writing for one well-versed both in cinema and in those regions. This film is just a peephole into that newfound reality.
Review of In Bloom
In that light, In Bloom offers an interesting glimpse, not only as my first exposure to Georgian film, but also to the concept that a brand new cinematic world opened up.
That being said, there is only so much intrigue that can be generated by such non-diegetic thoughts within the diegesis of a given film. What the film does do well is sketch the backdrop and the world that these characters are growing up. It’s a society a bit difficult to swallow to a Western sensibility but the general lawlessness of the tumultuous time is apparent, and that is something often glossed over.
Usually, independence is treated as the endgame. Whereas here in this tale, and with nations, it’s really just the beginning. It’s what happens next that really matters. How does one get ones feet under oneself when their fledging nation is still war-torn and barely standing on its own two feet?
The backdrop works, and the performances of the two leads: Lika Babluani as Eka and Mariam Bokeria as Natia really are tremendous. I see many impressive performances by young actors. However, it’s very rare to see two performances in one film from neophytes that are not only exceptional, which these are, but also read as if they are veterans; and furthermore should continue acting for a very long time to come. Babluani and Bokeria certainly achieve that and make this film as watchable as it.
However, the issues that end up plaguing the film are not that unique to slice-of-life tales. Essentially, what these films boil down to is: is that approach the more effective telling of the tale than something more conventional? Quietly and without too much fanfare these girls are doing tremendous things and defying social mores but the pace struggles; the telling is a bit matter-of-fact; the eye on the story too far removed. Major occurrences are treated with ho-hum indifference by camera, edit and characters alike.
The unique backdrop and performances are enough such that I would advise people to see this film for themselves, but the facets that work against this film are such that I cannot say I enjoyed it.