Jeremy Martin


Life During Wartime

In Tangerines, old men pick fruit in a battle zone, and force two opposing soldiers into an uneasy truce.

While Tangerines may seem an odd title for a tightrope-tense wartime drama, stranger still is that the principal players actually spend most of their time onscreen sipping tea. “No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,” David Byrne yelps in the Talking Heads' “Life During Wartime” and, as though even this declaration is burning up valuable minutes, “I ain't got time for that now.” The talk of general paranoia and vans full of weapons in the song's lyrics definitely match the mood of Estonia's official 2015 Academy Award entry. As for “lovey dovey,” the closest thing to romance in writer-director Zaza Urushadze's Tangerines—in which all female characters, mothers, wives, granddaughters, are represented only as memories and photographs—is the idealistic way in which soldiers initially view the glories of battle or the way the older characters, believing themselves wiser, view the homes they've made for themselves and refuse to abandon as Estonians in the violently contested Georgian-Abkhaz territory circa 1992. But conflict or not, Tangerines’ main characters seem to have plenty of time to spare.

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