Repentance: Tengiz Abuladze’s anti-totalitarian fable restored

Picture of the movie Monanieba (Repentance) © Nana Janelidze


It's a work that blew a wind of freedom in Soviet Georgia. Cannes Classics this year embraces Tengiz Abuladzé's Monanieba (Repentance), a critically acclaimed anti-totalitarian fable shot in 1987. The film is screened at Cannes Classics in the presence of actor Avtandil Makharadze and screenwriter Nana Janelidze.

As with all respected statesmen, Varlam Aravidze's funeral is solemn, but the peace in which he rests is short-lived. The next day, his corpse is found in the garden of the family home. Once the shock of this has passed, the body is put back in the coffin and buried again. Except that the scenario repeats itself. On the fourth attempt at exhumation, the culprit is caught red-handed: "Oh my God, it's a woman!"

With Repentance, the Soviet director Tengiz Abuladzé offers us a fable about all totalitarianisms. He concentrates this viewpoint in the character of Varlam Aravidze, a Soviet tyrant with a Hitler moustache and Mussolini's black shirt. After the death of this despot, who is as grotesque as he is burlesque, a woman stands up. She remembers when, as a child, the man had persecuted her artist parents. As an adult, she takes revenge and assumes responsibility: "I accept the facts but not the guilt", as a nod to oppression.

In 1984, Tengiz Abuladzé's film was completed but it took three years to discover it – three years of obstruction by the regime. After its clearance, Repentance, which was honoured in the Cannes Competition, won the 1987 International Critics' Prize and was screened all over the world.

A presentation by the Georgian National Film Center. Interpositive: goskinofond. 4k scanning and colour grading: UPP Prague. Digital restoration, sound work and DCP: Studio Phonographe, Tbilisi. Financing: Georgian National Film Center.