The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY? | The Movie Waffler


Two lovers are stricken by a curse that makes them unable to recognise one another.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Alexandre Koberidze

Starring: Giorgi Bochorishvili, Ani Karseladze, Oliko Barbakadze, Giorgi Ambroladze, Vakhtang Fanchulidze

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? poster

Apart from having to listen to other people’s dreams, is there anything more tedious than a friend telling you about how wonderful their new relationship is? Banging on that they just know, in their gut, this is the one; about the coyly amazing sex; the way that their life is now, finally, on some sort of course towards utopia while you, with your (let’s say ‘fitful’) romantic existence, are expected to nod and smile and say how happy you are for them? *Shudders* Of course, a couple of months down the line, when it inevitably goes tits up, that’s the good stuff: in plot terms, there’s that impelling conflict. Happiness writes white, as they say. And perhaps this is why, in Aleksandre Koberidze’s cutesy wutesy rom-dram What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, when lead characters Lisa (Oliko Barbakadze) and Girogi (Giorgi Ambroladze) fall in love they do so in a manner which is perfunctory in both visual and narrative terms. In a tight shot we see two pairs of shoes in parallel, with their owners out of frame, reciting the dialogue of their meet cute. The characters bump into each other, someone drops a book, the other picks it up: this happens two and a half times (on the third bump the book isn’t dropped). Neither of them knows which way they are going, nor seem to be able to see what is directly in front of them! They are soooo quirky.

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? review

You hate them already. Which is a massive problem, as seeing what stands for narrative tension in What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? concerns these pair of milksops getting it together. After some flimflam about who each is (it’s not worth me typing it out), the two meet again; this time in an extreme wide angle which shrinks our heroes to dots who agree to meet in a café the next day. They fell in love when they bumped into each other three times earlier, you see. And if you don’t, you’ll have to accept it, as the next two hours plus of cinema depends on you buying this relationship.

Perhaps in the constructed anonymity of Lisa and Giorgi, Koberidze is proffering a wider point about the universality of love and romance. Giorgi and Lisa could be any of us, the film is maybe suggesting. They’re not though: they look and behave like people who find ukulele covers of popular songs endearing. Plus, Koberidze draws on everything but the performances of the two, and any actual chemistry, to convince us of the instancy of the coupling. A sweeping 1950s style score, for instance. And a narrator who tells us how monumental it all is. This reliance on external factors propagates a vague ‘idea’ of love and does little to invest us.

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? review

On her way home that night, Lisa is spoken to by things like a security camera, and a shrub. This is not a terrifyingly psychosomatic episode for the girl, but yet more unconvincing whimsy. The suddenly sentient objects warn her of a curse which affects lovers (the random nature of this sequence is not adorably magical, but annoying and lazy: throughout, the film uses its dainty narrative turns as a pastel camouflage for its fatal lack of substance). As Lisa falls asleep, an intertitle informs us to also close our eyes, and then open them upon an audio signal. On principle I obviously didn’t, which was perspicacious of me as when Lisa and Giorgi (now played by Ani Karseladze and Giorgi Bochorishvili - 2ManyGiorgis) wake up they look completely different to the people they fell asleep as! No one recognises them and so how will they ever identify each other? Maybe love itself will die.

Now one wonders if Koberidze is making some sort of witty comment about the bland anonymity of his characters, but if he is, then that is some commitment, and the joke is ultimately on his audience. Because the next two hours involves the two drawn to the café where they were to have their fated meeting (and, in fact, both working in the place), but sort of accidentally avoiding each other due, perhaps, to that bloody curse. This isn’t really conflict, more a plot imposition. It’s a bit of a thin premise, which Koberidze nonetheless pads the fuck out with successively arbitrary non-casual sequences. Why take a minute over a scene when you could have five? Heck, take six. Again, this approach suffocates the drama. Towards the end of the film, time is taken over Lisa fixing her hair but the potential intimacy of this sequence is blanded out by the ubiquity of similarly extended scenes: low angle shots of tree branches with native singing on the soundtrack, a montage of kids playing football, a subplot about dogs meeting on a bridge. #Quaint, yeah?

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? review

If the div kid from American Beauty who films that plastic bag made a feature then perhaps it would be What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?. Self-absorbed and labouring under the misapprehension that because it believes something to be profound then it simply must be, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? offends with its superficiality posing as wisdom. With the tasteful mise-en-scene of a John Lewis advert, and the mediocre heteronormativity of the central conflict (as in children’s fairy tales, we are meant to care if the man and woman get together because isn’t that what men and women are meant to do, whether they want to or not?), this is a film which will appeal to the sort of simple hearted people who see its capricious sky gazing title as a query of profound implications.

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is on MUBI UK now.