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'Dede' (2017) Review: A Will Strong as the Highest Mountain

By: Larissa Couto

In the mountainous countryside of Svaneti, Georgia (a land bordered by the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains), a young woman, Dina, tries to make her voice louder than the traditions that rule the lives of the inhabitants of her remote village in the movie Dede. With recurring themes of tradition and modern times, the characters stand between the traditions that have served them for centuries and daring thoughts of changing those traditions. Arranged marriage, honor, superstition, sacrifice, and blood are the challenges Dina faces. She’s doing it all for love (and her own happiness), but the elders and men of her village don’t approve of her impulse to stand up for what she wants. After finding love with Gegi, her destiny is unclear; an arranged marriage won’t allow them to pursue their passion. However, after a terrible event, Dina and Gegi finally find happiness in
becoming a family.

A story of death and love, Dina’s journey is told through numerous visual symbols during the film. The mountains that guard and cut-off the village from the world suffer and rejoice with Dina. As if this young woman was some sort of force of nature, from knee-high snow to green spring, Dina’s mountain survived everything—only getting stronger. Gegi’s presence in Dina’s life is also presented via symbols. The red/orange dress surrounds Dina when she’s with him or calls for intervention. That dress, in the room where her child lays ill, or as a bright red sunshine in the distant mountains; Gegi’s love is always there. For Dina we see her pursuit of love visually represented twice: first when she rides the horse and at the end when a horse carries the belongings of her future. In the brief scene where Dina gallops on the green mountainous landscape we’re able to see her soul, free and unstoppable.

Grief and love move Dina in an uncertain direction. Without the compass of tradition, the young woman follows her heart and her own mind against the elders and the men that try to capture her: to capture her from her own will. As Gegi’s friend explains in one of the first scenes of Dede: “If a woman doesn’t want to marry you, we kidnap her.” But not Dina. At the end of her love story, instead of being kidnapped, she takes what is hers: her own blood, her love. Dina may have finally found that happiness is untrue, but now she asks for forgiveness to try again—on her own terms.

With the rule of thirds and long shots, the visuals of Dede represent the slow pace of the village. With clever close-ups, we’re forced to look at wool, a bullet, or the face of an ill child; just as Dina is directed to what matters in terms of tradition, the viewer’s will is also limited. The directing and editing do a good job at telling the story, and the acting is somewhat alluring. Raw actors bring truthfulness to some scenes (especially the ones with the elders) but give a few scenes a lack of expression that, although puzzling, make the rhythm of the film suffer a little by highlighting the acting instead the story being told. Generally, Dina’s misleading story is a well-told story of verisimilitude in love and loss.

Grade: A-

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