Metal Maniac

Movie Suggestion XXXV: Mandariinid



Movie Suggestion XXXV: Mandariinid


Country: Estonia/ Georgia – 2013


Genre: Drama, History, War


Directed by: Zaza Urushadze


Starring: Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nüganen, Giorgi Nakashidze




“War in Georgia, Apkhazeti region 1992: local Apkhazians are fighting to break free from Georgia. Estonian village between the mountains has become empty, almost everyone has returned to their homeland, only 2 men have stayed: Ivo and Margus. But Margus will leave as soon as he has harvested his crops of tangerines. In a bloody conflict in their miniature village wounded men are left behind, and Ivo is forced to take them in. But they are from opposite sides of the war. This is touching anti-war story about Estonians who find themselves in the middle of someone else’s war. How do they handle it? How do the enemies act under third-party roof?” (




“Although the two rival combatants vow to kill each other once they have recovered, their time spent convalescing softens their belligerence.




That’s really all there is to the story, and it’s certainly not a novel one.  But the film turns out to be highly effective, thanks to the skills of the actors and director Zaza Urushadze.  Nakhashidze captures the brutishness of the Chechen without denying his humanity.  Meskhi makes a good foil.  Niko was an actor before the fighting raged, and Meskhi suggests the diffidence of a more reluctant warrior.  But the strongest performance comes from veteran Lembit Ulfsak as the older Estonian man who shelters the two enemies in his home.  His character, Ivo, has obviously suffered his own losses, and Ulfsak conveys the necessary world weariness, along with a deep-seated compassion that comes from observing senseless hostilities over the course of a lifetime.




Director Urushadze films the rural landscapes with a poetic but unsentimental eye, so that when the bucolic scenes are blasted by gunfire, the impact is even greater.  The wistful, melancholy score by Niaz Diasamidze subtly enhances the film’s power.  This story is obviously destined to end badly, but the mournful, oddly redemptive conclusion seems exactly right.” (




“There is something of the tragicomic humour of Samuel Beckett about the men’s predicament, particularly in the way that Margus and Ivo are waiting for there own sort of Godot – soldiers promised by a local major to help them pick the fruit. Equally, the absurdity of two injured men desperate to kill one another is quickly established, although Urushadze also finds plenty of pathos and poignancy in the situation, as his film shows that the shifting opinion of one or two individuals is not enough to turn the tide of a war. Accompanied by a melancholy but atmopsheric refrain from Niaz Diasamidz, which gives an excellent sense of place as well as adding to the elegiac mood, the film is a great example of how powerful and universal small but well-crafted stories can be.” (




All images belong to their rightful owners.

March 23, 2015


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