A movie review of “Tangerines”: The Oscar-nominated film is a chamber piece of an anti-war movie, in which a grizzled crate maker in the 1990s Caucasus Mountains serves as peacemaker between sworn enemies from opposing armies. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Happy images of a tangerine orchard — green and ample and heavy with plump, citrus pleasures soaking in afternoon sunlight — can make you realize you’ve never actually seen a tangerine orchard before.
What a treat — and what an unexpected film in which to enjoy it.
Writer-director Zaza Urushadze’s Oscar-nominated “Tangerines” tells an optimistic if brutal story about sworn enemies forging a separate peace during a raging war.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Tangerines,’ with Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nüganen, Giorgi Nakashidze, Mikheil Meskhi. Written and directed by Zaza Urushadze. 87 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Russian, Georgian and Estonian, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
The time and setting are complicated. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, various peoples and states in the old republic tried to break away, sparking wars for independence resisted by armies loyal to Russia. “Tangerines” takes place in 1990s Abkhazia, a region in the Caucasus Mountains claimed by Georgia but fighting for autonomy.
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War has blighted the area, and a longtime community of Estonian immigrants has all but vanished. Staying behind at daily peril is Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), a grizzled maker of wooden crates that carry to market ripe tangerines grown by Ivo’s equally resolute neighbor, Margus (Elmo Nüganen).
In the midst of the two men’s labors comes a battle outside Ivo’s house, leaving him with two wounded soldiers (Giorgi Nakashidze, Mikheil Meskhi) to care for — one from each side of the bloody conflict.
What follows — Ivo brokers a truce between his hate-filled guests, one that takes on the nobility of brotherhood — has struck some critics as hippy-dippy naive. Forget them.
It is difficult not to be moved by “Tangerines,” which begins to feel like a legend despite one’s nagging sense something is missing from the film’s hasty third act. Despite that, as anti-war movies go, “Tangerines” is a special chamber piece.