A low-key masterpiece

This is my review of Tangerines [DVD].

This subtle, film, for the most part slow-paced and low-key, with occasional flashes of violent action, proves to be a searing indictment of war.

The outbreak of war in 1992-3 has driven away the expatriate Estonian community from a remote village in Abkhazia, a Russian-supported separatist enclave in Georgia. The political geography may be unfamiliar, but it is clear that only Margus has stayed behind to harvest his valuable tangerines, together with his carpenter friend Ivo who provides the wooden crates, but perhaps has an additional unrevealed reason for his reluctance to leave.

A shoot-out on their doorstep between two Muslim Chechen mercenaries fighting for the Abkhazian separatists and a trio of Georgians leaves only two injured survivors, one from each side. This is clearly a recipe for high tension, requiring all the pacifist Ivo’s skills to manage. Yet even as a bond forms between the four men, they are at risk from marauding bands of soldiers from both camps who may turn up at any moment, pumped up with adrenalin to shoot on the slightest pretext.

This film contrives to convey a sense of the value of rural life in its calm, natural rhythm, a growing empathy with all the four main protagonists, with their differing viewpoints and personalities, an awareness of the arbitrary nature of survival and conviction as to the utter folly and waste of war as it impinges on innocent parties.

A near perfect film in its development of characters and storyline, with excellent, naturalistic acting, this is all the more striking for being unexpected and deserves to be more widely seen.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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