Alexandre Koberidze’s Georgian slice-of-life, pseudo-silent film aesthetic meets magical realism and romantic comedy in What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, and the result is magnificent.
The film opens with a meet-cute between pharmacist Lisa and footballer Giorgi, who make plans to meet at a cafe the next evening. But something fantastical happens overnight that leaves the two disconnected.
Over the course of the next two and a half hours, we hear almost no words spoken by Lisa or Giorgi, though there’s plenty of sound and music filling the soundscape. Instead, the film’s plot is largely progressed by narration, giving the film the feel of a silent epic.
Much like Koberidze’s debut feature, Let the Summer Never Come Again, this sophomore effort spends more of its runtime creating an urban panorama of life in motion than tracking the story’s actual characters. Thus the city is as much a character as anyone else. What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is not nearly as avant garde or anti-plot as Let the Summer Never Come Again, at least, and always feels like it has some narrative vision.
Koberidze and his cinematographer, Faraz Fesharaki, capture the energy of a busy city with visual grace. Lighting and compositions are immersive, and the editing often hypnotic. The sound design is excellent, too: Diegetic sounds of kids playing soccer, games airing on speakers, and cheering are omnipresent.
Like the best fairy tales, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is compelling on a plot level, but full of rich symbolism. Issues of self-identity and vulnerability and perception of others within relationships are literalized with the movie’s magic twist.
And for a film that so often feels like it’s drifting weightlessly, the ending comes together pretty miraculously.
The biggest issue is, of course, that it’s 2.5 hours for a very light story. The movie’s sprawling effect could have probably been achieved to nearly the same effect with 45 minutes trimmed. But I love what it’s doing enough to give it a strong recommendation to those who dig pensive, low-dialogue art films.
Exceptionally Good (7/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.