Every once in a while, a film will come out of nowhere and completely floor you. A film you know nothing about, yet by the time it ends, you know you have been changed. At MIFF, sitting in the Kino cinema last Sunday evening, George Kapaklis and I had one such experience with a film from Cannes called And Then We Danced.
The latest film from Swedish director Levan Akin, And Then We Danced revels in the tale of Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani, but more on him later), a young dancer at the Georgian National Ensemble, a prestigious dance company dedicated to traditional Georgian dancing. Merab, who’s been dancing since he could walk, dreams of joining the company’s main ensemble. However, one day Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), a new dancer, comes along, and what begins as a rivalry soon turns to longing as the two draw closer together.
As a tender, queer love story set in a country which is still largely homophobic, And Then We Danced holds a quiet and unspoken passion that draws (perhaps inevitable) comparisons to Call Me By Your Name (2017), God’s Own Country (2017) and Moonlight (2016). While the styles and the aching are the same, one hates to lump these new queer love stories together, as this film is still so distinctly unique in narrative and setting. Yet, it is also more than just a queer love story: as Merab comes into himself, it is his personal journey — through masculinity, the body, through dance — that we witness, making for the most heart-rendering ending. However, these comparisons are also the most accurate way to describe the film, in our hope to encourage others to watch it too.
Sitting side by side in the cinema, George and I laughed, gasped, had our hands pressed tightly to our mouths, and at many times turned to each other to make sure that we were seeing the same thing: that this film was real, it was happening, and we had the privilege to see it. Afterwards, there we hardly any words beyond “holy shit” and a sense of amazement, knowing we had both seen one of our favourite films of the year. However, I had to run off to an event straight after, so our conversation about the film had to wait. Here is a conversation we recorded, presented to you in another installment of Rough Cut’s screenshot criticism.
Hosted by Claire White
And Then We Danced will be playing on 11 August 2019 as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.