In “Beginning,” a gut punch of a drama out of Georgia that takes austerity to extremes, a woman has a psychological and spiritual breakdown after an attack on her rural place of worship rocks her village. Dea Kulumbegashvili’s feature debut was one of the most talked-about films of the 2020 festival circuit, with the jury in San Sebastian led by director Luca Guadagnino awarding it Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress, and the Golden Shell for Best Film. The film, which is also Georgia’s submission for the 2021 Best International Feature Academy Award, finally begins streaming stateside courtesy of MUBI on January 29.
Ia Sukhitashvili plays Yana, the wife of a community leader who faces hostility after the attack, and the intrusion of a detective in her life who brings with him harrowing consequences. The film is set within a sleepy town of Jehovah’s Witnesses who provide an unsettling backdrop to Yana’s crisis, powerfully portrayed by Sukhitashvili. The film boasts 35mm cinematography and plenty of long, isolating takes, which make for a challenging but altogether hypnotic experience sure to enthrall arthouse filmgoers — and one that surely brings to mind the works of Michael Haneke, albeit with a more spiritual edge. “Beginning” was originally slotted for a Cannes competition premiere, and also played the Toronto International Film Festival, before heading off to the New York Film Festival back in the fall.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich had high praise for the film last year, writing in his review: “From the horrifying sting of its first shot to the becalming ethereality of its longest take, Kulumbegashvili’s film doesn’t simply trap its heroine in a home she longs to escape, it also uses the severe narrowness of these images to isolate her from other people, to articulate the desires she’s smothered in the name of maternal servitude, and to attack her from just beyond the limits of what she’s able to see. In ‘Beginning,’ the borders of the frame aren’t just the iron bars of a jail cell, they’re also the garden walls of Eden, the tempting hiss of the snake, and the angel of the lord who interrupted Abraham from killing his son.”
Watch the trailer for the film ahead of its MUBI premiere below. The film will be available to stream in North America, the UK, Ireland, Germany, India, Turkey, and Latin America.