Associate Professor at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Ph.D. in Mass Communications
The article’s goal is to probe into the specifics of conflict sensitivity in fiction texts created in the bosom of Georgian culture after the conflict between Georgians and Abkhazians entered a post-occupation “frozen” phase. To that end, internationally acclaimed Georgian cinematic works are analyzed for narratology framework based on Proppian narrative structure, on one hand, and Roland Barthes’s system of narrative codes, on the other. Works for analysis were selected not just for their acclaim. Instead, the researcher was also drawn to the differences defining views on narrative development and coming across as narrative catalysts. One of the selected films is set in 1992, during the war, and portrays the relations between its parties through actions and discourse characteristic of the conflict’s boiling point. The second movie features post-conflict Tbilisi in the late 1990s, a place where IDPs from Abkhazia take in their new status through a painful experience, and learn how to live with it—while viewing Abkhazia as a place where they can flee and feel at home, not as strangers. The main characters of the third film are an Abkhazian man and his granddaughter who has lost her parents to the war. The two, fresh out of war, embody two generations for whom the conflict, besides being about gun battle and a theater of war, also stand for the death of a child (in the case of the grandfather) and losing parents (in the case of the granddaughter).
What underpins all three films is a quest for identity and the deconstruction or construction of identity’s constituent elements depending on narrative development. And none has a definitive finale—each evokes an individual interpretation in the viewer, a direct allusion to the blurry future of Georgian-Abkhazian relations.
Keywords: Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict, Cinematography, Media, Narrative
Waiting and Expectations
In the late 1990s, a persistent question was present within the Georgian media and professional circles: Why was the history of conflicts not “properly” reflected in the modern Georgian literature or cinema and why there was no artistic reflection on the matters of the large-scale human tragedies that comprised the history of conflicts (Gegeshidze, Gogoladze, Tabukashvili, Toklikishvili, n.d.). I use the word “properly” in inverted commas since I am still unsure what exactly it means. There were only a handful of answers to this question or arguments as to why there was no artistic reflection of this traumatic experience. Therefore, it is not hard to remember even today. The most common response was the following: The war as an event was so sudden, so tragic, dramatic, and shocking to the peace-accustomed Georgian society, that it would have been impossible to react to it right away.
Furthermore, one of the main arguments as to why artistic reflection on war and conflict was delayed concerned pre-war tensions and later the danger of re-emergence of war-generated stereotypes (auto- and hetero-stereotypes) in fiction. Most likely, the authors of this argument viewed fictional text as more valuable and relatively higher-class than, say, a media text, in other words, a “perishable” text. It was intended for longer life and therefore was not given up for the sake of banal propaganda stereotyping. However, if we look at the broader picture and assess all the texts as messages intended for a specific effect, in the end, it will not matter if, in addition to media, there have been any other platforms complementing the circulation of stereotypes.
Likewise, as someone with many years of journalistic experience, I remember one of the not-so-unfounded arguments claiming that as opposed to the victorious one, the party who lost needs more time to comprehend what happened, and arguably, the loser never writes the story of their failure. It takes many years for shame and the rage induced by this very shame to subside and allow generalizing, abstracting, and artistic transformation. The argument was not unfounded, but it was very damaging. According to this logic, the stories of people who died, or of people dyinga quick or slow death, those suffering, mourning the dead, unable to forget what they saw, people who have been living in exile while searching for a new identity in the dark, would gradually become completely forgotten, because oral collective memory does not retain the true picture of events for long (this is the law of diachronic communication: As time passes the original message loses [changes, distorts] its volume and meaning as the source of communication changes). There was another misconception in the logic of this argument. If the history of conflicts and wars was to be written, it would have to be a single homogeneous narrative or ideology. Ideology, on the other hand, has its meanings and signs, myths, and symbols that may have been relevant in a particular point in history, but they could be found overly artificial in a broader retrospective. In truth, if people and the names of geographical places, actions, consequences, and responsibility for these consequences were to be forgotten, then the second or third generation of IDPs would have known very little about their native places, and that would have become a generation with erased layers of identity and belonging. It was that generation and its interests that was ignored by another argument, which was often presented in the form of a rhetorical question: Who should we write and shoot movies for? Should we self-communicate our own experience? Should we tell ourselves the stories of wars and shattered lives? Are we not already aware of the sacrifices made by all parties to the conflict? In fact, this was an ultimatum to the current generation: Those who lost the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia had to “catch up with their mistakes” and correct them in the present. Those were chaotic times with many “ifs” and many unrealistic conditions. For the proponents of this argument, the conflict and war as an event was not yet over or, at least, not in a sense to have had any sort of ideological resolution. Such an approach excluded Abkhazians and Ossetians from the communication process as the recipients of the message.
The first signs of reflection could be traced in fiction in the second half of the 1990s. It was seen only in a dozen of the short-lived editions, magazines, and almanacs. Many young writers and poets joined the war as volunteers, and it was those who matured through being close to war and death. They began depicting what they had seen and experienced in an artistic discourse. It was rather a specific genre that depicted the triple reflection of the event: The event itself as part of physical reality, its reflection in the author’s consciousness and conscious reflection activated and presented through the signs and codes of the text. This was not a study of “the science of hatred” as these works mostly concerned the motivation of a volunteer fighter: Why did they go to war? What did the war look like from afar and what did it actually look like? How did the war change people? What is the price of an immature, romantic, or infantile act in the brutal reality of war? Specifically, this genre was a spontaneous fusion of documentary and feature, where it was unnecessary to draw a sharp line between reality and fiction. Notably, Abkhazians were excluded from the communication process here as well.
It was this erroneous or asymmetrical communication—as a reflection on the conflict—that was the subject of headline articles in a monthly edition of LTD “New 7 Days Newspaper”, ”Sitkva” (June 2008, N6, just two months prior to the war). The magazine resorted to an original method and published opinions side-by-side (read as a whole text). Those were the views on the recent and uncertain future of Georgian-Abkhazian relations by NatelaAkaba, a representative of the Abkhazian non-governmental sector, and Georgian journalist Lia Toklikishvili. NatelaAkaba, in her letter “Abkhazians – Georgians. 15 years later,” recalled her stay in Tbilisi and meeting with IDPs from Abkhazia, government officials, members of the Georgian parliament, and civil activists. She wrote:
“I had a feeling that the stories about the humiliation and hardships experienced by the people who live in Abkhazia were received with satisfaction by Georgian society (and even more so by politicians). There were events of 1998 in the Gali district; in 2001 there was an attempt to break through by Kodori gorge militants, the voyages of Okruashvili-Merabishvili to Kodori headstream, which resulted in the establishment of an anti-Abkhazian base to make Georgian hawks happy. If Georgians had found the strength and wisdom in themselves and abandoned the principle ‘the worse it is for Abkhazians, the better it is for us,’ we might have had a different picture today. Instead of discussing the restoration of territorial integrity, we should be talking about the restoration of mutual respect between nations. […] I have a feeling that all these years, following September 30, 1993, there was some hidden expectation in Abkhazian society. It was not about repentance from Georgia—since there is no such thing as collective repentance—but rather re-evaluation of the events of the recent past. Human memory is selective: It removes everything unpleasant, but it does not allow us to analyze sensibly and impartially. The organizers and masterminds behind the exhibition on the ‘genocide in Abkhazia’ should fill the exposition with a portrait of your ‘national hero’ and the bemedaled General Karkarashvili, who made a vow in his televised speech in the first days of the war that he would not spare 100 thousand Georgians to destroy 93 Abkhazians” (Akaba 2008,vol.6, 3).
In response to these words, the Georgian journalist follows the reverse logic of the Abkhazian author and provides her own argument from the “Georgian point of view”:
“There is one Abkhazia, but there are two nations for whom this one Abkhazia is their homeland. Both received slaps from history: The first one when they were made to live on the same land and the second one made them hate each other…. What do we Georgians and Abkhazians know today about our common history? They know nothing except for this hatred. As Ms. NatelaAkaba says, Abkhazian houses buried in ruins remained as landmarks of this history of hatred. Here, too, Ms. Natela, the ruins of Georgian houses are buried in memories of the IDPs from Abkhazia. […] Human memory is selective indeed. If it were not so, I would have better remembered the rattling of the guns of Georgian soldiers near the doors of your houses, and you would also remember the corpses of Georgian elderly and children dumped in the garbage by the bulldozers of VladislavArdzinba in Gagra. As Abkhazians themselves claimed, some of them were still alive, and the earth on their graves kept moving for several minutes. You would have remembered unarmed civilians shot dead by victorious Abkhaz troops in Sokhumi; ZhiuliShartava, Rev. Andria, pastor of Kaman Church; five-year-old DatoKancheli shot due to his Georgian origins on the playground in front of his flat in Agudzera on the day Sokhumi fell” (Toklikishvili 2008,vol.6, 4).
As you can see, the text is based on a bipolar paradigm: There is the Abkhazian view on the one pole and the Georgian one on the other. Aside from the differences between perspectives, the texts show very little difference from each other. Overall they concern with the same issues: the traumatic expression of the pain familiar to the author, while the issues sensitive to the other side are ignored, alienated, non-traumatic, as if transmitted through a machine language. Both authors write about crimes that can never be disappeared no matter the purpose of the punishment. Although NatelaAkaba is worried that the communication between Georgians and Abkhazians suffers from decoding distortion on the Georgian end, in her letter, she herself has nothing more to say to Georgians, except that the Abkhazians have been waiting for some change from Georgians rather than repentance. This is nothing more than being passive and bitter over unobtained or unobtainable independence, which was characteristic not only of NatelaAkaba, but of the entire Abkhazian non-governmental sector and civil activists. The degree of bipolarity of these parallel judgments necessarily creates another distorted space of communication. It is the Georgian journalist again, who manages to say something to the Abkhazian:
“I am glad that Georgian children are still taught at school the magnificent novella based on the true story of Abkhazian UjushEmkha, who appeared to be the only one among the entire population of Sokhumi, including Georgians, who chose to die instead of bowing down in front of Russian soldiers. Do not be frustrated by the word Russian. In this context, it is only symbolic and refers to a transformed patron in all nationalities” (Toklikishvili 2008, 4).
These media texts clearly reveal the hallmarks of a historical narrative. Instead of reflecting the real time in their narratives, the authors refer to the conditional time or period imprinted in the culture of “their side.” This narrative has a beginning, which we can refer to as a general orientation. It has a middle section, where the author formulates and evaluates the problem, and an end, which we might call a return to the present. It is a peculiar version of historical knowledge where interpretation, explanation, and understanding are more important than facts. There is a retrospection (past through the prism of the present), perspective (assessment of historical facts from the author’s point of view), selectivity (selection of current information based on author’s viewpoint and interests), specificity (influence of historical knowledge on identity), communicational quality (influence of cultural discourse on historical knowledge) and fictionality(strong dependence of the interpretation of history on the social and political conditions where these interpretive versions play a landmark role).
The 2008 war, the occupation, and the absolute alienation that followed the war seemed to have a shocking effect on Georgian society and forced it to re-evaluate its views on the events of the 1990s radically. The Abkhazian civil activist and authors, who had been reminding Georgians of their conscience—the process which had some form of expectation in it—disappeared completely from the Georgian media. They disappeared because of fear and despair. The occupation did not turn out to be the goal that Abkhazian fought the war against Georgians for. The occupation turned out to be a more significant trauma than a war with each other. This is a sad reality.
The Other Bank, Tangerines, and Corn Island
In this article, we are going to present a narrative analysis of three feature films from the 2010s. They have gained international recognition and turned into a form of a milestone in cinematography and the history of conflicts. The creator of history and culture is a nation rather than an individual, so we can view these films as a shared experience of Georgians and a shared sense of identity. In other words, we can think of it as creating, shaping, and preserving collective memory. We have chosen these movies for analysis because of these reasons and the international recognition of these films.
The Other Bank (directed by Giorgi Ovashvili, produced by Giorgi Ovashvili and SainGabdulin). The script is based on the story “Journey to Africa” by NugzarShataidze. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 7, 2009, in the competition program “Generation.” The same year, the film was screened in thirty countries, at fifty international film festivals. The Other Bank has won 31 international prizes in various nominations.
Tangerines (directed by Zaza Urushadze, produced by Ivo Felt and ZazaUrushadze) is a Georgian-Estonian project that came to life with the support of Eurimages. Most of the funding originated from the Estonian side, which reserved the right to nominate it for the Golden Globe and Oscar. At the Warsaw International Film Festival, Tangerines won two nominations for Best Director and Audience Award (which is similar to Audience Approval in our common discourse), as well as an award of the Estonian Guild of Film Journalists, and Audience Award at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Festival. Tangerines was nominated for the Golden Globe and the Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film. The film won a total of twenty Grand Prixes at international film festivalsfor directing, special jury prizes, and others.
Corn Island (directed by Giorgi Ovashvili, screenplay byNugzarShataidze, Giorgi Ovashvili, Rolof Jan Minebu), according to the annotation of the film, ” is about a struggle between a man and nature and an attempt at harmonious coexistence, the protection and preservation of ideals, the desire to break through a closed circle, a love story and Abkhaz-Georgian relations.” Corn Island is the winner of the 2014 Karlovy Vary Festival. The film received positive reviews from critics, with Variety calling it “An astonishing feat of cinema presented with the utmost modesty” (Debruge 2014), and describing the film as having Tarkowski-style aesthetics. Corn Island won the Best Actress and Best Director Awards at the San-Marino International Film Festival. At the Montpellier International Film Festival, the film won the top prize, the Golden Antigone, Critics’ Choice Award, Best Music Award, and Audience Award. Georgia nominated Corn Island for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film.
On the principles of narrative
Modern humanities and social sciences borrowed the term “narrative” from historiography, namely from the concept of the Narrative History by Arnold J. Toynbee, based on which, rather than being “objective,” the meaning of a historical event arises in the narratives of that event and is inextricably linked to a personal, subjective interpretation. (Toynbee 1971).
As Georgian scholar and literature critic Kharbedia (2008, 194-197) points out, “The ideas on the essence, structure, social and psychological functions of the narrative were formed in antiquity. […] Until the 1st century A.D., the Latin term narratio (narrative) was used as a technical term. The orator used narratio following the statement of the thesis, i.e. it was a form of an illustration. […] In the 20th century, many different theories were developed about narrative. According to Hill Miller, the most solid among them were the theories of Russian formalists (V. Propp, B. Eichenbaum, V. Shklovsky, etc.), the dialogue theory of narrative (M. Bakhtin), the theories of New Critique (R. P. Blackmer), neo-Aristotelian theories (Chicago School of Criticism), psychoanalytic theories (Z. Freud, K. Burke, J. Lacan, etc.), hermeneutic and phenomenological theories (R. Ingarden, J. Pule);structuralist, semiotic and tropological theories (C. Lévi-Strauss, R. Barthes, T. Todorov, A. Greimas, etc.), Marxist and sociological theories (F. Jameson), theories of reader perception (V. Iser, H. R. Jaus), post-structuralist and deconstructivism theories (J. Derrida, P. de Man).
Each of these theories is recognized and has its own followers, although there is a common belief among narrative theorists that there are “more authentic” theories among them, namely the schools of formalists and structuralists, which provided an impulse for the creation of other theories and the latter are primarily modified or advanced versions of the two domains rather than the theories themselves. Prioritizing or competitiveness of the schools here is not as important as the fact of emergence of a multi-faceted understanding of the concept of narrative, which attracted the attention of scholars in various fields. This means that the cultural and social space has become an object of narrative research. Representatives of all domains used a single methodological basis as a starting point—equalizing of the reality and a text,as a result of which the focus of interdisciplinary research on narrative shifted from the study of social values and norms to the study of the formation of meaning.
A narrative is about the placement of feelings of the author and the receiver in time and the placement of events and actions in a single continuous time (in a narrative, it is provided in the past tense) mode. Narratology offered a method of reducing any text to its individual structural units (for example, to the function of the actors in the case of Propp’s theory) or to a set of characters grouped into codes (up to five narrative codes in the case of Bart). Narratology distinguished between a plot and a story (the concept was introduced by Russian formalists V. Shklovsky, B. Eichenbaum, B. Tomashevsky)—the natural chronological-logical sequence of events (as it happened “in real life”) and the sequence of the events the way they are shown in texts (the way they are narrated) which resulted in some sort of a synthetic formula: narrative = history/story (as the basis of a narrative that allows us to distinguish narrative texts from non-narrative) + story-line (text/discourse, paradigm)
Before analyzing, we should note that the purpose of this article is to discuss the principles of narrative directly (instead of assessing the artistic value of the films), and it is only relevant as far as the methods of analysis of the films are concerned. Therefore, the method that we will be using for analyzing The Other Bank, Tangerines, and Corn Island is synthetic. By synthesis, we mean the analysis of the films based on the syntagmatic and paradigmatic dimensions of the narrative, the structure of the fabula and the story-line of the text, and discourse analysis. For the theoretical basis of analysis, we will be using the classical formalist-structuralist framework: the morphological structure of the Proppian text and the Barthian narrative codes.
The aim of the article is to study and highlight whether there are any textual regularities in the fictional texts of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict; what function does war hold there: It is the background, the context where the narrative takes place (i.e., the sema code), or is it some form of precondition defining the relations between the actors, some form of knowledge about the relations with each other (code of reference); what is the meaning of the land, the native place in search for the identity of the actors, and so on.
A feature film combines two types of texts: narrative and descriptive. In the theory of narratology, not all authors distinguish between narrative and description. For example, within the realms of the same school, structuralist Roland Barthes considers the code of description of the character and atmosphere of action as one of the codes of narrative and even as a determinant of other codes—even cultural and symbolic ones, though description and narration form different classes of texts for TzvetanTodorov. Unlike literary narrative, cinematic narrative does not have the past tense, but is contemporaneous with narration.
Proppian analysis viewed a tale as an archetypal text which is strictly subordinate to a morphological structure (Пропп 1928). Propp’s work prompted many scholars to search for constant patterns of action in homogeneous texts, that is, in texts of the same class. It provided an impetus for the work of Janice Radway While Reading Romantic Novels, in the mid-80s, which identified a specific scheme of actions, compulsory steps, and catalysts in a specific genre of texts—so called Novels for Women. No story-line of any romantic novel could have been developed without them (Radway 1984).
In his book, Genres in Discourse, TzvetanTodorov (1995, 29) divides the syntagmatic chain of Propp (31 functions) into five stages: (1) The opening situation equilibrium; (2) The degradation of the situation; (3) The state of disequilibrium observed by the hero; (4) The search for and the recovery; (5) The reestablishment of the initial equilibrium—return home. All these stages include several groups of functions of characters and objects (those of a hero, a villain, and a magic thing) discovered by Propp.
Analysis of the films we have selected will follow these stages and phases and will view each in the context of fabula and story-line. At each stage, we will also outline the functions of narrative based on the pragmatic features of narrative, such as social functions: identification (when the narrator or protagonist identifies himself/herself as a member of a specific society), representational functions (Self-representation of the characters by themselves or the narrator (the camera) during their meetings), psychological functions: psychotherapeutic (“thinking together” and “comparing experiences” in a critical situation), and prognostic (rumors, views).
The opening situation equilibrium. The story-line origin in The Other Bank is an ordinary day for a 12-year-old boy, Tedo, shutting the porch door of a wooden house and setting off to make a living. Most likely, this would happen on a daily basis. Someone else’s clothes that did not fit the body, the clothes of a person older than him, is a sign of incompatibility of age and lifestyle rather than mere hardship. The camera starts narrating the adventure of the boy from this point. But syntagmatically, based on the sequence, the starting point of the story is Tkvarcheli, eight years ago, a small town in Abkhazia that the boy and his mother, along with other Georgian residents of Tkvarcheli, had to flee in order to escape the war. They left behind the boy’s father whom doctors forbade to move due to a heart attack. We learn about this later in Tedo’s story, but we do not know whether the character was telling the truth. Maybe his father’s heart attack was made up for the sake of survival as his mother’s death is. These were the two starting points of the equilibrium which was later upset to turn Tedo’s life upside down.
The situational starting point in Tangerines is the workshop of an ethnic Estonian man living in Abkhazia, carpenter Ivo making boxes for tangerine crops. The Estonian community was completely withdrawn by the Estonian government immediately after the start of the conflict. An Estonian doctor and Ivo’s neighbor Margus, the owner of a tangerine orchard, are preparing to leave. Only Ivo is not leaving. This is the enigmatic code of the narrative: why does not Ivo go to Estonia, where his entire family has already gone? The whole narrative, to a certain extent, is aimed at answering this very question, and this answer is actually the starting point for fabula: Ivo’s son is one of the first victims of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict – an Estonian boy who considered Abkhazia his native land died by the hand of Georgian fighters. At the beginning of the film’s story, Ivo being Estonian and only caring for the tangerine crops is one visible pole of contrast, a deceptive sign of “non-alignment”, but the secret revealed at the end of the film (The second and, at first, invisible pole of the contrast) about his son having been killed by Georgians became the real beginning of the movie and served as a catalyst to the narrative which explained a lot and determined many of Ivo’s actions. The radio in Ivo’s house and the information transmitted through the radio is a peculiar code, and each of its signs indicates the impending danger to Ivo.
The initial equilibrium of fabula as well as the story-line of Corn Island is conveyed in the initial subtitles of the film in the form of written text. This is the story of annual islands that the Enguri River creates every spring. During the spring rainy season, Enguri brought large amounts of fertile and loose soil from the Caucasus Mountains, then spread it across the lowlands and formed a river island in the middle. An Abkhazian farmer moves to this new land to plant a cornfield with his granddaughter. “Nobody’s Land,” “New Land” has a wide connotation from the very beginning of the film. The first words a girl says to her grandfather on the island are “Is this their (Georgians) land?” If this is no man’s land, if it is a land on its own, then the “neutrality” in the response of the grandfather means “the innocence” of the land: This is the land the Abkhazians and Georgians did not fight for, it is a bloodless land where a new life can be built. It is possible to launch an illusory renewal here, even for a short time, for a year, until the autumn rains, until the Enguri itself takes its own creation back—no one owes anything to anyone for living on this land, and no one needs permission to live here. However, in the very first scenes of the film, it becomes clear that there is no new or no man’s land in this conflict. The grandfather examines the soil by hand and suddenly removes a cartridge-case from the soil. The owner of the cartridge-case, who once lived on this land, created a “human memory” of this land. The cartridge-case is empty, which means the bullet did its job, and the cartridge-case, in the form of an index and a mark of death, arrived to the grandfather as a message: What will he choose?
The degradation of the situation: According to Propp, narrative begins when one of the family members leaves the house (goes away, dies), and in the context of this departure, if the protagonist is banned or requested to do something, he/she is left with a will or a certain condition to fulfill. (Пропп 1928: 37). There is no clear dividing line between these stages in the films.
In The Other Bank, leaving of the house by one of the family members can be viewed in several modifications: the father staying in Tkvarcheli or the alienation of the mother from the family life. It was that day Tedo identified himself realistically. It was the day he saw what sort of life his reality and his environment demanded from him. This is one version of the prohibition: You have to live like this and get used to such life. It was the day he heard the pseudo-compassion for being an IDP and received some money; that day, he realized that he had some sort of a “label” attached to himself that made him different from others; he realized that he is powerless against his mother’s lifestyle and her armed lover. He understood that he and Tsupaka (a homeless IDP boy) would not always be able to steal money and support the family with it. He realized that he could not replace his father. On the same day, he heard that it is impossible for him to find his father because Abkhazians would “catch and screw him.” He was told that “Abkhazians drink the blood of Georgians” and “play football with the heads cut off from Georgians.” He heard the story of Tsupaka’s father shot by Abkhazians in his own yard, and then they tied a wire rope to his feet and dragged the body to the center of the village. Prior knowledge, real or imagined, gossip or rumor, is part of the equilibrium, of the realization that there is no place for a little IDP boy neither on this nor the other bank. Tedo, however, still violated the imposed prohibition and the deadly equilibrium. Resentful of his mother, he still decided to go to his father—everything was clear on this bank (“my mother died”), but on the other bank there is still some hope and a few “What ifs.”
In Tangerines the balance shattered when the armed Chechen Ahmed appeared in Ivo’s yard and his workshop. For Ahmed the weapons and mercenary status (he is paid, worthy, Ahmed has a price) is the kind of an advantage over Ivo that gives him the right to tell him what to do (“Go to Estonia”), to make him feel his superiority (to demand something for the service), and to check his trustworthiness. However, Ahmed’s appearance in Ivo’s workshop was only the first sign indicating that from that moment on nothing would be the same. After a while, Ivo heard the sound of an explosion and found wounded Ahmed and a Georgian fighter Nika, who appeared to be alive right before his burial. There were fighters from two opposing sides in Ivo’s house: a Chechen mercenary and a Georgian volunteer, actor Nika, already a motivational paradigm. At this stage of narrative there are two mutually exclusive modifications of Ivo’s prohibitions: The prohibition by Abkhazian-Russian police to Ivo from providing a shelter to a Georgian fighter, which Ivo violated by accepting his son’s death as another prohibition—not letting anyone else die. This function of prohibition is based on Ivo’s own experience. From the perspective of narrative philosophy, this prohibition can be viewed as a function of the “narrative of stability” or the “narrative of progress.” Ivo’s own experience/trauma, departure/death of his son forced him to make sure that “if he did not become better at least he would not get worse than he had been,” so he turned his house into a place of forced peace for the two opposing sides. In order for Ahmed and Nika to understand (or at least accept) the “forced peace,” he explained that he was doing it for his own safety and offered them to find ways of fooling the Abkhazian-Russian police “together.”
In Corn Island, the prohibition applies to the life on the island itself: Georgian and Abkhaz border patrols who emerged one after the other observed the grandfather and the granddaughter with suspicion or unhealthy interest. Their circling of the island from time to time and watching the girl through binoculars is a warning which should be followed by the emergence of the main antagonist (according to Propp, at first the villain starts tracking and gathering information about the victim before actually harming him/her). A Georgian border guard boy, who likes the girl, unintentionally becomes the cause of the death of the “innocent land” and the illusions related to it. He is not an antagonist in a classical sense, but just a man from the “enemy” side whose ordeal brought him to this island to find a “mute” (without any dialogue) love with an Abkhazian girl. The provocative game of catch in the cornfield, which is both a struggle and a passion, was part of a paradigm code that was decoded only in the finale of the film.
The state of disequilibrium observed by the hero; The search for and the recovery. Search for and find. These two stages of narrative are almost combined in the films I question. After going through the stage of imbalance, the viewer suddenly asks: Who lost what? What are they looking for? Is there anyone who can help them find what they lost? Will they even find the lost one? Is it even possible to find him/her/it? In narrative theory, these stages are generally the most dynamic, loaded with action codes, and it usually comes at the culmination of narrative, and from there on, it is a descent down to the end of the story. In the films that we analyze the development of story does not always follow these patterns.
In The Other Bank the narrative, on the other side, ended where the story begins, when the boy arrived in Tkvarcheli. The film tells us about Tedo’s adventures before Tkvarcheli and meeting his neighbor Maro. She told the boy the story of his father: In order to survive, he married an Abkhazian woman next door and now has two daughters; Tedo will have to meet them, they are his sisters. The road to Tkvarcheli is divided into two parts, before Enguri Bridge and after, although one part of narrative also refers to the bridge itself as a kind of “purgatory.” Before the Enguri Bridge, the boy’s decision to go to Tkvarcheli to his father is met with distrust. They do not believe that it is possible for someone to have a desire to get to the other bank; Tedo is just an “IDP” child who is hiding a strange intention in his heart under the IDP umbrella. This is the reference code for the post-war Georgian culture. After crossing the bridge, it becomes clear in each scene that the boy is not unexpected, but just rare (almost exceptional) and awkward—to the degree that his crossing the bridge can hurt both him and his hosts. Here, in this culture, “IDP” has a different connotation. On the bridge, Tedo sees that the war between Georgians and Abkhazians has brought criminals on both sides closer together. In a place where there is no control, it is easier for Georgian thieves to hand over stolen cars to Abkhaz accomplices. That is why the group in the red SUV with “the UN number plate” comes to Enguri Bridge, and on their way, they picked up Tedo, who had been thrown from the train. However, they later have to throw him out of the car too. Tedo could not tolerate their attempt to rape the girl they picked up on the way. He also feels responsible; the girl was lured into the car because of him (“How can we try doing anything bad with a child in the car?”). On the bridge, Tedo realizes that this is not just a bridge but it can become a gateway to death for anyone who refuses to pay tribute to Russian peacekeeper and opposes him.
This is how a young Megrelian or Abkhazian man dies in front of Tedo, the one who praises Tedo for his courage and determination and suggested staying with him that night and even offered him a glass of wine according to the rules of the elders. In terms of structure, the scene in the house of Daur and Zita was built on a contrast between night and morning. This is the house where Tedo was brought by a kind man to spend the night. This is the house where there is no light and the sad housewife walks around with a lamp in her hand, where Tedo is frightened by a strange, incomprehensible, harsh Abkhazian dialogue between Daur and his wife and the sound of a cuckoo jumping out of the clock….The host’s son, who probably died during the war, is looking down from the photo on the wall. Frightened Tedo (as if because of guilt) falls asleep under the bed, and in the morning wakes up in a spell-lifted house—ironed and cleaned clothes by his bed, Georgian-speaking hosts, and hot khachapuri, which “would be a shame not to eat.”
In the beginning of Tangerines, the protagonist and antagonist are not a Georgian and an Abkhaz, but a Georgian and a Chechen fighting on the side of Abkhazians. The representative function of narrative is about the land and identity in the protagonist-introducing scene.ForNika, Abkhazian land is Georgian land, which he volunteered to defend in the war, while Ahmed reminds him that he is on Abkhazian soil sitting on an Estonian chair. Ahmed explains that he came to Abkhazia to defend a “small nation” from those like Nika. The viewer does not fully understand whether the police, suspecting harboring of a Georgian fighter, who came to Ivo from time to time, is Abkhazian or mixed. One thing is clear, the man who (no matter whether he does it actually or potentially) kills Nika, Ivo, and Ahmed is Russian, cruel and jealous, whom neither a Chechen nor an Estonian can trust. It is not clear in the film when or why Nika turned from Ahmed’s foe into his rescuer or how Ahmed deserved his goodwill, but according to the formal structure of narrative, this is the stage when a protagonist or other character is tested and his attitude changes.
In Corn Island, the grandfather finds a wounded Georgian border guard in his cornfield and decides to take care of him. He is aware that Georgians are looking for their friend, that the Abkhazian police is looking for a “wounded dog” who cannot go far and if he stumbles upon grandfather’s island, he must inform them. The grandfather breaks all prohibitions, but he is unable to numb the instinct of a parent and girl’s caretaker. The old man is afraid of the mutual interest between his granddaughter and the Georgian border guard, who is her first love. He leaves the island for a little while to take his granddaughter away. Upon his return, he sees an open door, and the wounded person is nowhere to be seen; it is not clear whether he was taken by the Georgians or the Abkhazians, although the events that took place in the end show that the recovered and healed Georgian border guard most likely fell into the hands of Abkhazians. The colors in the scene then change. The summer sun is replaced by the grey and sad sky of autumn, the sound of rain at night drowns out the sound of a girl crying, the rain daily weighs down on the roof of the hut, and soaks up its supporting pillars—these metaphors of the feeling of loss with the overly explicit meaning, make the finale predictable. The boat with a girl that carries the harvested corn is taken away by Enguri… and the grandfather dies with his hut and his land.
New equilibrium, returning home as an epilogue. A corn island and new land are born next spring. Some other man is leaving the boat, and similar to the grandfather, he examines the soil with his hand, but instead of a cartridge-case, the girl’s doll appears in his hands, another sign of femininity and unrealized motherhood…. In The Other Bank childhood and old life on the other side, the hope that father will still accept him as he is (as a little boy), ends in Tedo’s abandoned and ravaged apartment in Tkvarcheli with already useless childhood toys in it. Nobody needed and, therefore, nobody stole them and Tedo has no need in having a plastic duck on wheels either…. These are the signs of peace and a carefree state that will take long to arrive in the place of broken windows. Tedo, discovered by Abkhaz warriors in a forest shelter, tries to gain their trust by a crazy dance, similar to theirs but more riotously with eyes wide shut. And these eyes are soothed only by the ghosts of an addict, a savannah with calm and long-necked giraffes…. In the Tangerines, Ivo is left with two graves to take care of, two victims buried side by side, his son and Nika. Will Ivo return to his workshop? His last carpentry job was to chisel coffins of Nika and Margus.
In narratology, it is not uncommon to see that not all codes in a text: action, sema, references, cultural, or symbolic ones can be activated with equal intensity and equal volume in order to forge meanings. Yet it is the proportions of the codes that form the ideological setting of narrative. In our opinion, this proportion becomes a carrier of socially important information, because external i.e. real-world signals and messages are voiced or corresponded differently by the narrative codes which they “translate” into an artistic idea. If there is a narrative, there is an experience, a knowledge that does not stay in the passive repository of consciousness and has a potential to act. The narrative provided in these films is a metaphor for social space, the space of Georgian-Abkhazian relations. The socio-cultural function of narrative in these films lies in facilitating the creation of discourses belonging to different individuals (groups, even opposing ones), on the one hand, and production of an almost uncountable number of metatexts, on the other. When we voice the postulate “knowledge tops action”, we have the three main functions of these fictional texts in mind: creating new information, transmitting this information, and saving it (moving it to the memory repository). The latter function manifests itself in relation to other cultural traditions (as Bakhtin  called it, “the memory of genre”). Knowledge is part of context, the background for perception of future narratives in Georgian-Abkhazian relations; this is and will be the systemic environment that reflects and strengthens the dynamically changing relations between Georgians and Abkhazians in their consciousness. When the action code slows down or cuts, narrative slows down as well, though referential and cultural codes come to the fore as the codes of knowledge and experience, as an “imbalance” bringing together the story. These films also reflect this imbalance. Here narrative introduces its filter: the attitude filter. The change and changing is possible, maybe not immediately but eventually, “If we do not get better, we won’t turn worse at least.”
 By war we mean the one waged by the President Mikheil Saakashvili in August 2008 with the aim to bring South Ossetia back under Georgian jurisdiction.
 IrakliOkruashvili – Minister of Defence of Georgia in 2004-2006;
IvaneMerabishvili – Georgian Minister of Interior in 2004-2012.
 The concepts of history and discourse were introduced by ÉmileBenveniste. By history he means what is told, and by discourse the way it is told. Thus, history is very much like a fabula, but discourse is a broader concept than a story-line.
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