Tamar Shavgulidze’s first internationally-released feature, Comets, opens with an epigraph: “The comets have such a space to cross, such coldness, forgetfulness.” Attributed simply to “S.P.”, it is a quote from Sylvia Plath’s poem The Night Dances. Just like the 2019 movie, it is a lyrical study of tensions between opposites, of love, and of the small things — a smile, a touch, the beauty of nature — that give our lives meaning.
The film follows two women, Irina and Nana, who meet in an edenic, sunlit Georgian garden. Three decades ago, they were in love: but their romance was forbidden, and the pair were separated. What can be said about it now, when so much of their lives is already behind them? Nana stayed in Georgia and started a family; her teenage daughter is about the same age as she was when she first fell in love with Irina. Meanwhile, Irina travelled around Europe, starting a successful business in Kraków. At first glance, the two women have grown apart — and perhaps have even become too different to remember the love they once shared.
Slow-paced and meditative, Comets favours static shots and lacks a soundtrack almost entirely. This stripped down, somewhat theatrical approach might have been partly born out of necessity — the film’s budget was only about £38,000 — but it fits Comets perfectly. The small, all-female cast carries the film gracefully, and you never wish to leave the quiet summer garden where the action takes place.
All the more impactful is the film that appears within the film: a grainy sci-fi drama that the young Nana and Irina watch together, somewhat reminiscent of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972). This mis-en-abyme sequence is quite long, and may initially seem out of place in the simple, grounded story. Yet, apart from being an excellent exercise in cinematic style, it really delivers Comets’ message: that there is a love so profound that it transcends space and time, reality and fiction, and overcomes all obstacles and hardships; that those who love truly and unconditionally will never forget each other.