Short Film: 1924, by Guram Megrelishvili

Screenplay Synopsis

Varden Kipiani is a man who was born and raised in Ghvankiti. Just like many of Georgians, he has been good at singing and writing poems since childhood. Varden’s father was a typical Autumn Aznauri and classic example of being over-patriotic during feasts, whose heroism doesn’t go beyond toasts. Since his childhood, Varden has seen how his father stressed his Georgian, national spirit, on the one hand, and how he remained conformist towards the Russian Tsar, on the other hand. At the same time, Varden’s father had idealised the “Great Georgian Poets” as a collective face of something very special (quotations from their poems, made-up stories from their lives). Varden has been raised in this kind of environment, which meant conformism towards the super powerful state, on the one hand, and the desire to take an example of idealistic poets, on the other hand, has been impacting both his conscious and unconscious worlds.
Varden was raised with the hope and desire that one day he would become a great poet too. In the beginning, he was too shy to even reveal this timid desire but with time this changed; his poems were praised at a couple of places and he became ambitious.
Meanwhile, Varden moved to a town from his village. His new profession – a railway worker – became the reason of him being ashamed but then it became a source of living for him. He used to imagine his life in a different way but being a railway worker was the only source of feeding himself. Varden’s “poetic talent” was not encouraged. The audience who could listen to his poems included only several depot workers and his own family members. But the time changed. There appeared people who started talking about workers’ rights in the country. Bolshevik agitators reached the railway too. One of them heard Varden’s poet at a small gathering. He disliked Varden’s narrow national vision, but he still praised him and told him it was people like Varden who should create poems and be famous, and not some “Ilias ” and others. This occasion had an immense impact on Varden. The person had fully transformed and the man, who spoke about nationalism yesterday, became an active Bolshevism supporter today. His attitude had also changed towards the Georgian poets, whom he considered as icons before.
The only poet Varden still continued loving (because he was from Imereti and because his heart loved him and the brain could do nothing against it) was Akaki Tsereteli . He even saw the great poet several times in the street but he was not brave enough to approach him. The only thing he managed to do was to send his poem to him, where he presented himself as great as Akaki. (“You are the eagle of Skhvitori and I’m the hawk of Ghvanketi. You are a poet and I’m a poet too; you are Akaki and I’m Vardeni)
Varden became an active supporter of the underground Bolsheviks. He got married and returned back to his village. At first glance, Varden had a happy family, but not having a baby created a small gap between the couple. Varden was promoted at the railway. This period coincided with restoration of Georgia’s statehood. The audience of Varden’s poetry remained very small. On the one hand, he was a poet of feasts and on the other hand, he secretly wrote chants to the proletariat and his poems were passed from hand to hand.
The system changed again in the state. Georgia lost its independence. The Bolsheviks came into power. Varden’s popularity had even decreased and terror covered the whole country, including Varden himself. Varden was afraid that one day he could become a victim of terror. He also was afraid that he could lose whatever he had achieved – reading his poems publicly at the party gatherings, his photograph being published at the village newspaper and at the honour board of railway workers with the caption Varden Ghvankiteli (His real Aznauri surname Kipiani turned out to be hampering for him). Deeply down in his heart, Varden always knew this was not what he had been dreaming about and what he was excited about when he was reading his favourite Akaki, but losing even this would be a big trouble for him.
Varden eventually fully surrendered and became a slave of terror, and even more – he became an advocate of bloody punishments.
But the strict hand reached everyone. Several of Varden’s childhood friends were executed. Varden’s godfather, who was the first person to read Varden’s poems, was also executed. The whole village turned into spies. Varden lost his motivation for writing poems because he would also be executed if he wrote “anything wrong”. All of these were concluded with a person who was famous for his cruelty in entire Imereti being appointed as chief Chekist of the Terjola municipality. The Chekist liked Varden’s wife. Varden realises this difficult situation but he tries to ignore all of this as this “ostrich position” is crucial for his physical survival. The wife is also frightened. She silently asks for help from her husband who tries to deal with his fear and hopelessness with drinking and reading his poems at a feast table. The couple can’t have a child. The woman raises a Georgian shepherd dog, which once attacked the drunken Chekist when he was trying to enter Varden’s home and sexually abuse the woman. The Chekist forced Varden to kill their beloved dog right in front of his wife’s eyes. This event marked a watershed in the couple’s relationship and Varden also changed – he internally opposed to the regime.
Varden’s wife gets into an affair with the Chekist. She does this voluntarily as he surrenders to powerfulness since her husband can’t protect her. Co-villagers start laughing at Varden behind his back. The devastated person only thinks about existence and excuses himself as he managed to physically survive.
The regime of strict order is finally established in the country. There is no hope. But there still are people who can raise voice against the regime. This person is Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrosi Khelaia (his life is presented as a separate storyline in the script. Back during the Tsarism era, he was offered a “warm place” in return for his silence but then-monk Ambrosi did not refuse his principles, for which he was exiled to Russia for several years). Ambrosi’s letter to the Genoa International Conference is an unpleasant surprise for the Bolsheviks. In the country where people are so frightened they don’t dare even to think, there is the person who writes a public letter about Georgia’s statehood.
The Patriarch is arrested and proletariat members from across the country are brought to the court hearing. One of the speakers at the hearing is Ambrosi’s spiritual child Archimandrite Evsevi (Evsevi has its own storyline in the script. He first become a monk before he takes of his cassock in 1921 and grabs a gun. To make the process even more comic, he puts on a cassock again only to attend the hearing as a church member and in this outfit he blames Ambrosi for stealing and robbery). The Chekist wants to spend more time with Varden’s wife so he puts Varden’s name on the list of the hearing attendants as the “faithful poet of the proletariat”.
The court hearing lasts for several days. The prosecutor accuses the Patriarch of all kind of filth, but no one dares to protect him. Even bishops and priests prefer to stay silent. The only person who stands up for the Patriarch and even takes a dragger out to defend him is Varden. Varden was broken by pressure and fear but a human was still alive in him. Bravery and the final words of the Patriarch (whom Varden reviled himself before) had a big impact on Varden. The person has changed in seconds. His inner protest grew stronger and gained power. With a cool head he would probably never dare to even say a word but on that fateful day Varden revived as a person.
Varden is sentenced to banishment. The man has regained his dignity and his wife’s respect. The woman decides to accompany his husband in exile. Varden is still afraid but this is a different fear, it does not destroy his dignity and personality.
The couple sit in the same train as the 1924 rebels do. In Kutaisi, everyone is given bread. This is a big relief after a multi-day starvation. There are a nursing mother and her newborn in the carriage too. Varden gives a piece of fretwork to his old friend from the railway and asks him to bring some water for the baby. The former co-worker talks to the “people’s enemy” with a cold face.
Somewhere in between Shorapani and Argeta, the train stops and the passengers inside the carriage are killed with a machine-gun, which fires bullets in rapid succession for as long as the trigger is pressed.
Patriarch Ambrosi Khelaia was not executed. He died in prison in 1927. Varden’s incident played the key role in the Catholicos’ case. The Bolsheviks could not turn his court hearing into circus. They could not make the country laugh at Ambrosi Khelaia (as it was planned initially). Varden’s name was forgotten. The history kept his name only with Akaki’s reply: “Keep writing, my Varden, keep writing, and put an arrow through an enemy; if you can’t become a poet, you will learn how to write, at least!”

Writer Biography

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Guram Megrelishvili (1980)

Published books:
2002 – „10+2“ (Publishing house “Tobalisi”)
2003 – „You“ (Publishing house “Geo Print”)
2008 – „Multi usage bottles (Publishing house „Bakur Sulakauri Publishing House”
2010 – „City Of Human“ (Publishing house “Diogene”
2011 – „Model 18/12“ (Publishing house “Diogene” )
2012 – „First aid agency of the treasoned husbands and perfidy wives (Screenplay) (Publishing house “Diogene”
2012 – „How to germ boys” (Screenplay. Special Prize of UN Woman. Publishing house “literacy”
2012 – „Severs and delicates” (Publishing house “Literacy“)
2013 – „Anti globalists“ (Publishing house “Saunje“)
2014 – „Rich countryman” (Publishing house “Intelekti“)
2014 – „A few words about love” (Publishing house “Intelekti”)
2014 – European Patriarche (Publishing house “Intelekti”)

2008 – „Sunglasses by Quentin – script
2010 – SeaZone – script
2013 – Attitude Theory – script
2014 – The nest – script

2002 – Especially talented young writer. (President’s State Grant)
2003 – Especially talented young writer. (President’s State Grant)
2011 – The best Novel of the year 2011 (State Award named after Guram Rcheulishvili)
2012 – Elect of the UNO (Award Initiated after Ban Ki Moon in Drama)