By Zack Haddad | January 19, 2007

2007 SUNDANCE WORLD DRAMATIC COMPETITION FEATURE! Simplicity; sometimes the most simple of stories can be the most effective. Cinema today is plagued with ridiculous budgets and even more ridiculous stories. “The Legacy” is a film that is invigorating to today’s cinema in the sense that it takes a very basic story and makes it very interesting and new.

“The Legacy” is the story of a translator, Nikolai, who is hired by three French friends in the country of Georgia to find a run-down castle one of the friends has inherited. The four take the two-day bus ride to the location and along the way they meet an old man, his grandson, and a casket they are traveling with. They discover that the man and his grandson are one of two families that have been in a large feud for sometime. Their family had killed four men from the another family and now the other wants a final death for retribution. So the old man will die and his grandson will bury him in the casket.

The four then decide to follow the two men and witness the death of the old man. That sounds a bit dark, and in a way it is, yet at the same time it is easy to see that they are doing it more out of curiosity than for the basis of some sick entertainment. The French friends decide to document the entire thing on video cameras, which is fitting because the whole film feels like a documentary anyway.

The film was written and directed by the father and son duo of Temur Babluani and Gela Babluani (“13 Tzameti”), respectively. The film is shot in a personal style that feels like the audience is truly with the group of travelers every step of the way. This film doesn’t need wide sweeping crane shots or anything that of the like.

On the acting front, Nikolai (Pascal Bongard), doesn’t exactly seem like he enjoys translating, but because he knows multiple languages, it is a way for him and his wife to survive. The three French friends are kind of like wandering sheep, since not only do they not understand the language but also they can’t seem to comprehend any of the goings on in Georgia. This is apparent at the beginning of the film when one of the French women brings out her expensive Sony camcorder and some random thugs grab it out of her hands and run away with it. The funny thing about it is, Nikolai takes them directly to the man that is the local goods trader and he sells them their own camera back to them. It also has to be said that they would really be screwed without Nikolai.

The whole aspect of translating is portrayed in a very cool fashion. Say for example the three friends are talking to a local, the language will come up but there will not be subtitles, which really sells the whole thing because Nikolai is there and he translates it to the other party. Even though that may not be such a big thing, it is the little pieces of detail like that that sell the film. Also I enjoyed the mute man that is also on the bus. This guy has what seems like an endless supply of canned goods that he will sell to others, for an inflated price.

I didn’t have too many problems with the film except for maybe the sound design, which was cheesy at times and took me out of the film at times. For a movie that seems quite real, when someone is punched, it sounded like an 80’s kung-fu punch which can be distracting. Overall, though it wasn’t THAT huge a problem and the film was still enjoyable.

In the end, “The Legacy” shows that simple films can work. The film doesn’t need anything too ostentatious or amazing to sell the story. At a lean 76 minutes, short compared to something an American audience is used to, the story is so engaging that it doesn’t feel like a short film and it meets a more than acceptable resolution in that tight amount of time. Altogether, it is the simple recipe with the camera work and the engaging story that makes this film truly enjoyable.

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