As with another documentary opening this week — Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” — filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani’s intriguing “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” concerns people who think being in a movie will make them feel better about life and more appreciated by others.
In the case of “Machine,” which took an award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a peculiar desperation underlies the on-camera auditions of various young Georgians (in the former Soviet Union). The diverse hopefuls respond to Gurchiani’s ads seeking subjects — ages 15 to 25 — for a film “about young people.” Standing before a camera, they are gently questioned by the off-screen director about their backgrounds, aspirations, burdens and dreams.
In most cases, Gurchiani’s visitors — clearly longing for attention — seem happy, or at least relieved, to be talking about themselves with disarming frankness.
It’s soon apparent Gurchiani does not really plan to make a film other than the one we’re watching. But often she follows up individual auditions by visually exploring the lives of her interviewees on their turfs, capturing both beauty and decay in cinematographer Andreas Bergmann’s images of war-ravaged and economically challenged Georgia.
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Among the memorable teens and young adults who turn up is a boy who tends his family’s farm and disabled father, and already feels nostalgia for happier years. There’s also a 25-year-old fellow who, remarkably, is district governor for a rustic community of near-helpless, needy seniors. An anxious woman who simply wants to stop the world says she’d be glad to disappear via the film’s titular, hypothetical machine.
The effect of “Machine” is similar to an anthology of short stories woven around a singular setting. Every life in it is a window onto both a unique and shared destiny.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org