And Then We Danced review – freewheeling story of secret love

Levan Akin’s terrific romance about two male dancers in Tbilisi is electrifying in its physicality and fervent in its storytelling

To be young and in love – these are the impossibly painful conditions driving a terrific feature by the Georgian-Swedish film-maker Levan Akin that was a hit at last year’s Cannes. The film, which has the freewheeling fluency and fervency I associate with the French New Wave, is the story of two male dancers in Tbilisi’s National Georgian Ensemble whose relationship must remain a secret due to the macho conservatism of the Georgian dance world. Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a brilliant young performer whose playful, sensual improvisatory touches are frowned on by the troupe’s director who considers them appropriate for traditional national dance. Mortifyingly, Merab is removed from a particular routine in favour of newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), who appears to have a more acceptable masculine rigidity. But there is a spark between Irakli and Merab – which is painful for Mary (a lovely performance from Ana Javakishvili), who has known and danced with Merab since they were kids, and considers herself Merab’s intended.

Back at home, Merab’s extended family are strapped for cash, reliant on the leftovers he brings back from the restaurant where he has a part-time job waiting tables, and the apartment is hit by power blackouts, which causes his grandma to muse fondly: “This reminds me of Shevardnadze’s time!” His estranged father, meanwhile, is an ex-dancer who has fallen out with the dance establishment, and now runs a market stall. Gelbakhiani (a dancer with no previous acting experience) is excellent as Merab: his open, intelligent and sensitive face fills the screen with life, especially when he is almost loopy with love for Irakli.

The dance scenes are very satisfying – I could have watched them for hours on end and, rightly or wrongly, I was hoping for an extended, formally choreographed routine featuring Merab, Irakli and Ana. There is, however, a wonderful “wedding” scene featuring Merab’s brother and the woman he has just got pregnant, followed by a bravura scene at the reception in which a single tracking shot snakes through the raucous party. The physicality of this picture is exciting.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
First Love review – brilliantly bizarre, ultra-violent yakuza caper
A terminally-ill boxer helps out a troubled sex worker in Takashi Miike’s strange and wildly energetic film – his 103rd

Peter Bradshaw

13, Feb, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
Amin review – the builder, the divorcee and a forbidden love
In this sombre and thoughtful drama, a Senegalese construction worker falls for the French woman whose house he is remodelling

Peter Bradshaw

19, Jun, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
An Impossible Love review – Catherine Corsini's tender tragedy | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week
A daughter’s life is shaped by her father’s arrogance and her mother’s humility, in Catherine Corsini’s beautiful film

Peter Bradshaw

03, Jan, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno review – endless summer of sunshine and sex
Abdellatif Kechiche’s three-hour epic seductively depicts the hedonistic antics of a twentysomething crowd

Peter Bradshaw

13, Feb, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
Our Time review – forbidden love on a bull-fighting ranch from Carlos Reygadas
Director Carlos Reygadas comes close to autobiography in this shallow and self-indulgent story of a tortured extramarital fling

Peter Bradshaw

10, Jul, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice review – Ozu's bittersweet triumph
This portrait of married middle age is deliciously flavoured with mystery and melancholy

Peter Bradshaw

21, May, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
A Faithful Man review – drearily frothy French romcom
The female objects of desire in this disappointing ménage à trois comedy by Louis Garrel are more fantasies than characters

Cath Clarke

23, Aug, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Border review – into the woods for a body-horror romance | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week
Ali Abbasi’s dark drama focuses on transgression and taboo as two troubled people living on the edge of society develop a strange friendship

Peter Bradshaw

07, Mar, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Long Day's Journey Into Night review – an exhilarating slo-mo hallucination
Mystery, passion and fear permeate the obsessive reverie of a man searching for his lost love, which takes flight in an audacious 3D dream-fantasy sequence

Peter Bradshaw

20, Dec, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
A Paris Education review – partying in Paris like it's 1968
A bunch of attractive young people study film, quote poetry and have sex, in a black and white drama fatally lacking narrative drive and passion

Peter Bradshaw

12, Feb, 2020 @4:00 PM