CAIRO INTERNACIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2016: ANNA’S LIFE BY NINO BASILIA (ENG)
By Tara Judah
It costs too much, everything. Anna answers her apartment door to a man, his hand trembling, as he clutches a cup and a religious image. He asks for money; his child is sick and needs medicine. Anna is on the phone; she is agitated, distracted and, after rummaging in the fridge, brings him meat and fresh bread. The man is disappointed, “I’d prefer money,” he tells her. “I’d also prefer money, but I don’t have it,” she spits back, and closes the door.
Cleaning houses, washing dishes, ironing clothes, Anna is sentenced to a life of multiple menial jobs, despite her education. She looks after her grandmother, who suffers Alzheimer’s or dementia, and visits her autistic son when she can. She is at the precipice of her patience. Her plan is to move to America, to start over and make enough money to support her child from afar. The official routes are too prohibitive – she isn’t technically below the poverty line so she doesn’t satisfy the income requirements for social welfare benefits. When she applies for a visa, she learns that she doesn’t satisfy the consulate’s visa requirements, either. She cannot satisfy anyone, it seems, least of all herself.
She has exhausted all avenues for support – the father of her child has no money or compassion to give; when she visits his new home, he strips his new partner of her jewellery and tells Anna to pawn it, if she can. Humiliation fills the room and, as if it were a suffocating gas, everyone but Anna leaves the space with great urgency. She places the jewellery on the table next to her and, with what little energy she has left, lowers her head.
Her next financial proposal is just as debasing; an employer comes home early to find Anna and her friend dancing to loud music underneath a shower of his money: a recently discovered cash bundle of US hundred dollar bills. The man is so rich that he didn’t even know this wad of money was in his drawer. Seeing as it wouldn’t be missed, she asks if she could take it as a loan. Instead, he offers her the money as a ‘present’, but it’s all business to him and, in exchange for the money, he wants sex.
Each obstacle Anna faces is more devastating than the last. The worst is a pair of ill-fitting shoes. Having borrowed money from a colleague to purchase them she is devastated when the gift she has brought for her son doesn’t fit. Heartbroken, she yells, repeatedly, at him, “How have you grown so big? Why won’t you look at me?” The shoe that doesn’t fit is an analogy for how unfair autism is: she cannot know her son while he is imprisoned in his condition.
And then there is Zuka. A young man who hangs around, watching Anna, silently. On a narrative level, he is a stalker, and one who attempts suicide when Anna acts out violently towards him. But, on a more metaphorical, or perhaps even metaphysical level, he is a manifestation of her conscience, or a projection of her integrity. For the most part, he simply watches as she goes about her life. He doesn’t judge, but he is there to bear witness to what choices she makes and what actions she exacts. He is no angel, but he has, at the very least, some bearing on her morality.
He is silent until her desperation forces her into an act of kidnapping. From here, the stakes escalate quickly until Anna is holding the lives of two children in the balance. Having learnt that she is pregnant with another child, Anna has one final opportunity to make a decision. Until this point in the film, it seems that every decision she has made has been wrong.
As she waits for her appointment, she smiles at a young boy sat near her. The image of her face, smiling – really smiling – is fleeting, and yet it communicates so much: here she reflects upon every action and decision she has made. When they call her name, and announce her abortion, she stands up and leaves. She walks straight out of the clinic into a human rights protest. Someone next to her is wrapped in the Georgian flag. The frame freezes and the film ends with this image. It is up to the viewer to decide if this is entirely hopeful, and I think it is. Whatever else might happen, Anna has stepped into the bigger picture. Instead of seeing one more poor man, begging at her door, she sees herself alongside others, who also want to fight for a better way of life, in Georgia.
Director: Nino Basilia
Script: Nino Basilia
Cinematography: Nino Basilia
Cast: Ekaterine Demetradze, Lasha Murjikneli, Lili Okroshidze, Lamzira Chkheidze, Keso Maisuradze, Konstantine Djandjagava, Luka Chachibaia
Production company: Studio 99