The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear

Tinatin Gurchiani

Georgia 2012, 1h 37min.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf

In Salaam Cinema, veteran Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf places an ad in a newspaper calling for one hundred actors to act in a film that he wants to make to celebrate the 100th anniversary of cinema. The rest is a unique cinema experience: an audition with dozens of enthusiastic men and women turning to the camera to talk about their motivation for being in this film – an incredible mirror into contemporary Iran.

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear by Tinatin Gurchiani carries a similar ethnographic richness in portraying today’s Georgia, itself undergoing a transformation as it leaves behind its Soviet past and transitions to a modern state – through the eyes of its youth.

Returning home in autumn 2011 following several years in Germany, Gurchiani decides to make a film, for which she announces her decision to cast young people. Thus begins a series of auditions, in a poetic setting, surrounded by pastel-colored, decaying walls, around which Gurchiani structures her film.

From lovely Teona, who comes to the audition on her wedding day, to construction worker Jemal, who believes he would make a good Jean-Claude Van Damme double, and over a dozen intriguing characters that take turns in front of the camera to talk about their past, present, dreams and disappointments. We follow some of these characters as dramatic events unfold around their families and surroundings. Their vulnerability makes them almost transparent in the eyes of the spectators: they are shy, pensive, and at times monosyllabic. Yet in their hesitance lies a certain eagerness to tell their stories out loud, perhaps for the first time ever.

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear (Manqana, romelic kvelafers gaaqrobs). 2012

Among those who signed up for the casting, 13-year-old Ramin, a Muslim, doesn’t have much time to play, and tries to juggle school with work in the village, cutting corn and taking care of cattle grazing. He agrees to “show his life” to the director, so we follow him as he helps his mother send his disabled father to the hospital for surgery. Irakli, on the other hand, started playing poker when he lost his job, which has now has become his main source of income. The loan he took out from the bank is used for gambling: he spends most of the day on the computer playing poker with occasional outings for job interviews to no avail. 25-year-old Giorgi left Tblisi’s city life to become the governor of a mountain village of 150 inhabitants whose average age is 70. Yet despite his love for and dedication to the place and its people, the time to move on seems to be approaching for him. 22-year old Gotcha, whose father was taken prisoner during the Abkhazian war, still hopes that his father is alive and will come back one day. His dream is to join the military and have his name written next to his father’s on the heroes’ memorial one day.

Separatism, civil war, poverty, corruption and crime have sculpted the psyche of the youth

They seem to be looking for what they think is the right answer in front of Gurchiani, a stranger who hurriedly asks them questions with the promise of giving them a role in her film. We don’t know what this film is about or what kind of characters she’s looking for. It’s the promise that this film represents, which makes these aspiring actors accessible to us: fascination with (some) money, fame, recognition, appreciation, attention or all of the above. And sometimes, they seem to be forgetting why they ended up there in the first place, indulging in the intimate details of a highly personal drama.

the_machine_which_makes_everything_disappear_reviewThe fragility of the protagonists is more than a matter of personality. A highly underrepresented nation that has struggled to establish a stable political and economic regime since it regained its independence in 1991, the search for a new identity is a bumpy road for modern day Georgia. Separatism, civil war, poverty, corruption and crime have sculpted the psyche of the youth, who, despite their gushing energy, talent and skills, are battling to secure a stable life for themselves and their families.

The absence of documentaries on Georgian youth is what motivated Gurchiani to make this film: “I wanted to explore real stories about real people who would be good catalyzers for what happens in modern Georgia. A film which brings together self-presentation and self-staging with observations of the outside reality,” she tells DOX.
With her short hair and gothic makeup, Madi says she’s tired of everything from eating to falling in love. If she had a machine which makes everything disappear, she says she would use it to make herself disappear.
The idea of having a machine which makes everything disappear comes from an early encounter with a young interviewee. Gurchiani explains: “When I asked him what he wants the most in life, he said he wanted to have ‘The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear’. To me, this summed up the prevalent feeling among the young generation in Georgia today. They are born into a life of constant challenges and changes, and are fighting hard to have a life of their own.”. For the protagonists, the camera itself eventually becomes a machine that makes the unwanted things disappear from their lives.
 “All of my characters have seen the film and are happy to see themselves and their lives onscreen, which at times served as a catharsis for them,” she concludes, “for my next fiction film, I would love to work with some of them.”
In The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, outstanding visuals like Georgia’s spectacular rural and urban landscapes as well as evocative communal occasions, including a Muslim wedding, contribute to Gurchiani’s sharp artistic vision in creating a magical tour de force, which paints a compassionate and somewhat melancholic portrait of Georgia’s eclectic new generation.