Producers: Giga Agladze, Ivane Bakradze, Max Gottlieb, Joanna Plafsky, Giga Agladze, Gia Bazgadze, Lasha Mindiashvili and Jonathan P. Shaw Director: Giga Agladze Screenplay: Giga Agladze Cast: Jim Sturgess, Andreja Pejic, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Michael Socha, Orla Brady, Jordi Molla, Rhona Mitra, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Billy Barratt and Mark W. Travis Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Though the credits boast many producers, the name they focus on is that of the film’s sole executive producer, David Lynch. The writer-director, Giga Agladze, is the head of the Caucasian arm of the foundation founded by Lynch to fund the teaching of transcendental meditation, and the technique’s aim of creating a state of heightened consciousness is presumably reflected in the weird, obscure tale “The Other Me” tells.
Its protagonist is a bartender and would-be architect named Irakli (Jim Sturgess) who’s told that he has a rare eye disorder that will soon result in blindness. This aggravates what appears to be an already well-advanced strain on his relationship with his wife Nutsa (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) who, it’s soon revealed, is carrying on with her husband’s best buddy (Michael Socha).
As his sight fails, Irakli begins experiencing hallucinations—black-and-white visions in which people appear in masks, their faces covered with gauze, and paintings in a gallery he visits become animated—and becomes more and more agitated. He also has flashbacks to his boyhood, when, played by Billy Barratt, he was bullied by his classmates for his artsy leanings and reviled by his father (Jordi Molla) for his lack of manliness.
On one of his frantic excursions he falls asleep on a bus and emerges in a forest where he finds a house inhabited by a mysterious, nameless woman (Andreja Pejic) he’s instantly drawn to. Statuesque in both form and expressiveness, she talks in murky, pretentious riddles that intimate big revelations to come. Irakli returns to the forest to find her again, and she shows him a surrealistic vision of thin men dragging black bags up a steep hill and remarks that they’re filled with “the weight of all their suffering.” She says this while holding a balloon—his bag of suffering, it seems—that she says is too heavy for him before letting it fly off.
To make matters even murkier, there are fraught scenes involving Nutsa and her employer (Orla Brady), the American ambassador to whatever country the story is set in (the film was shot in Georgia—the country, not the state, but in English), and between the mystery woman and Irakli’s mother (Rhona Mitra), who have some undefined past history that relates to Irakli’s struggle.
Precisely what all this falderal is supposed to add up to isn’t entirely clear, but there is clearly an indication in Irakli’s exclaiming at one point that what he’s finally perceiving is the real world that’s hidden beneath a veil of illusion, and an ending that points to his finally coming to terms with his true self, which society has long compelled him to reject. But even if one sees that result as an ascent to a higher understanding, it certainly isn’t depicted here as the effect of quiet meditation.
Most of the acting in “The Other Me” is terrible, but in different ways. Sturgess, who for some reason seems attracted to such oddball projects, goes utterly overboard, delivering a performance that plays to the rafters. At the other end of the spectrum is Pejic, whose lack of emotion even when she’s supposed to lose control (as in her scene with Mitra) is almost risible, and whose flat line delivery leeches any hint of profundity from her portentous lines. Everyone else falls between the two extremes, some (Molla, Socha) closer to Sturgess’ wildness and others to Pejic’s blandness.
Perhaps the film might have made more of an impact, even when courting obscurity, were it more visually intriguing. But aside from that single men-on-the-hillside vision, even the artily surrealistic sequences are pretty unimaginative, and the “real world” material washed-out and flat: the day is not saved by cinematographer Konstantin Esadze or production designers Giorgi Gordzamashvi and DaduTopuridze. Editors Jonathan P. Shaw and Marc Schneider are unable to make much sense of Agladze’s musings, and the spare score by Paul Haslinger adds little sense of awe to the proceedings.
There may be some who find deep meaning in Agladze’s pretentious parable, but for most it will be a riddle without rhyme or reason.