Photo: Cannes Film Festival
Before We Vanish by Calum Reed Film

And Then We Danced | Levin Akin

February 21, 2020

An utterly predictable narrative exercise, And Then We Danced salvages some intrigue in the celebration and presentation of its titular art.

A familiar tale rears its head in Levin Akin‘s And Then We Danced, this year’s submission from Sweden for the International Feature Film Oscar. By their nature, teenaged coming-out stories always provide room for empathy, yet it remains a challenge to make such stories feel novel. This film stands out by introducing us to the art of Georgian dance, as fledgling dancer Mareb (Levan Gelbakhiani) falls for Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), the new boy and arch rival in his troupe. As a window into this lesser-known art form, then,  And Then We Danced has a certain unique flavor to it, despite its wholly predictable story beats, which stay close to the tried-and-tested depiction of guilt-edged attraction.

Thankfully, things gets much less rote in its second half, as Mareb’s sexual awakening reaches full flow and his various relationships become charged with complexity. Young actor Gelbakhiani proves quite the discovery, exhibiting the sheer unadulterated joy of being in his first sexual relationship. Curiously, you are forced to wonder how Mareb’s homosexuality comes as such a revelation for many around him, given that his feminine traits as a dancer are obvious (and highlighted in the film by his instructor) from the outset. Perhaps some of that can be attributed to the lack of visibility of queerness in Georgia; the LGBT culture in Tbilisi, in particular, comes across as particularly endangered. Despite this being Sweden’s entry (the director and producers are of Swedish origin), And Then We Danced details a particularly Georgian experience that hinges on that nation’s overall intolerance towards minorities. The eventual, hard-hitting resolution for Mareb drives that fact home, bluntly reminding those part of more open communities how fortunate they really are. 

Published as part of February 2020’s Before We Vanish.