Shortly into the documentary "The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear," director Tinatin Gurchiani asks an interviewee: "If I come with you, will you show me your life?" It's an intriguing, grandly put question whose promise is never quite fulfilled in this thoughtful but slow and random snapshot of life in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Wanting to make a film about growing up in her war-torn home country, Gurchiani posted a casting call for Georgians aged 15 to 23 with on-camera ambitions — or at least curiosity. The result is a series of rotely filmed screen tests with an eclectic, often charismatic array of applicants. These subjects' responses to questions posed by Gurchiani add up to frank, pithy character sketches that are mostly mirrored by accompanying footage of their home or personal lives.
Unfortunately, there's a lack of structure, context and point of view to the largely gray, grim, hardscrabble world presented here (for starters, how about a map of Georgia?). Sure, much can be gleaned simply from what we see and hear: tales of war, imprisonment, family, romance, work, mental exhaustion and so on. But without understanding how those stories and histories truly connect to the land and its people, "The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear" (the title involves one of Gurchiani's interview questions) amounts to a compelling heap of clay in need of a good sculptor.
"The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. In Georgian with English subtitles
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun