The Swimmer (1981) - full transcript

A family of swimmers distinguish themselves in sport but run into trouble with Stalin's police, in this period portrait of how even the light side of life was poisoned by terror.

Sovexport Film presents

Filmstudio "Georgia Film", USSR.

Script and direction: Irakli Kvirikadze

Camera: Guram Tugushi

Production design: Aleksandr Dzhanshiyev

Musical score: Teimuraz Bakuradze

Sound: Madonna Tevzadze

In Batumi it rained constantly.

One night, at our shooting location,

this man with an umbrella turned up.

He called himself Anton

and told us he was the grandson
of Durmischan Dumbadze,

the man we made the film about.

Show me my grandfather, he asked.

Here he is.

The legendary swimmer
Durmischan Dumbadze.


We're shooting the scene where
Durmischan leaves Batumi

as he could not withstand
the ridicule of the townspeople

Our hero is a real man,

who lived in the beginning
of the century

but who has been forgotten since.

It poured from morning until evening.

We were waiting for the rain
to stop for a few minutes.

22 short stories from the lives
of 3 swimmers.

Anton carried with him the photo album
of his family

and many stories to be told.

He told us the chronicles of his family,
the Dumbadzes.

Durmischan did not live
far from Batumi.

He was poor

and made a living
from his three buffaloes.

During the rain period
the river was flooded

and the buffaloes were driven
far out to the open sea.

Durmischan found them and brought them
back to the shore.

He could dwell in the water
for several days in a row.

The times were hard

so Dumischan walked to Batumi
in search of work.

Batumi 1913

He started to work as a diver
in the harbour of Batumi.

He cleansed the hulls
which were overgrown with shells.

He was a man who liked to enjoy himself.

He liked to put his endurance on display

in all strange ways.

One time he dived with the turtles
in an aquarium

at the Zoological Garden of Batumi.

He wanted to prove that he could
be under water for six minutes.

"It is impossible", he was told

by representatives from the Caucassus
and Mercury Sport Club.

The president of the Sport Club,
Givi Gogoberidze

turned on his timer.

Durmischan lay on the bottom
letting out bubbles.


The second hand is already
on the sixth turn.

Six minutes.

An unofficial record
in being underwater.

Gogoberidze couldn't believe his eyes.

To Batumi came the famous
English swimmer Tomas Winston.

Who had swum across the English canal.

Here he is. Tomas Winston.

The swimming over the English canal
was a world sensation at the time.

Tomas Winston and his lovely wife
Franceska Koti,

silent film actress

All their public appearances
were documented,

by a cameraman who accompanied them
on their tour.

In the background stands Durmischan,

who at the time had been promoted

to chief of the diving squad
in the Batumi harbour.

2 July 1913.

In the newspaper The Echo of Batumi
one could read

that during the banquet
in honour of Tomas Winston,

Durmischan, who already had started to
make a reputation, stood up and said

"I can swim across two English canals."

The words were translated
to the Englishman,

who laughed.

"He doesn't know what marathon swimming
is about."

"He will freeze",
Tomas Winston continued.

"He will freeze and sink
to the bottom of the sea".

The champ was a happy man
and his cheerfulness was infectious.

Dumischan understood
that he was made fun of.

"I will swim right now!"

"I'll jump from the quay
and I'll get up in the city of Poti!"

In the morning paper Tomas Winston
could read a short news item,

reminding of yesterday's little incident
on the quay.

But more important was the publicity
made for Winstons company.

The champion was also
a clever businessman.

Tomas Winston visiting
the Batumi oil producer Rotschild.

Franceska Koti charms everyone
with her movie star smile.

An honouring visit to Teo Kekelidze,

manager of the Batumi department
of the central bank.

Trade agreements are being signed.

Durmischan was forgotten.

At one point the Englishman asked
about the man on the quay.

Nobody knew about him.


The morning of the third day.

Dressed in the undershirt
of one of the soldiers,

he returned home.

The way he was dressed
he did not dare to enter the city.

A monk carried honey from the monastery
to be sold in Batumi.

The monk gave him honey and wine
and dressed him in his robe.

"Tell him that I have swum to Poti!"

"It is not true! You are lying!"

"We have investigated the matter."

"People saw how you got up
on the shore of Chakva."

"And Chakva is not the English canal".

I couldn't prove anything.

The whole city was laughing at me.

And I left Batumi.

He returned the keys to the landlady

and went to the country.

Durmischan often went down to the sea.

At one time, not far from the shore,

he discovered a sunken ship
full of amphoras.

"It is wine!"

It reminds of Isabella
but it is sweeter.

Durmischan brought up 1 000 year old
wines from his wine cellar.

Maybe the wine had belonged
to the Argonauts,

who had came sailing to Kolchida,
searching for the golden fleece.

At odds with the world
Durmischan drank in solitude.

He did not know that the world
was changing rapidly at the time.

One day he was called to
the sport commissariat.

"We are arranging
a marathon swimming contest."

"Do you want to swim?"

"Of course!"

"You will be the first red champion."


He prepared for the competition.

But a terrible fatigue
paralyzed his muscles.

Durmischan understood he wouldn't be able
to swim the 60 kilometres.

The Greek Star picked him up half dead
out on the open sea.

Durmischan got drunk.

Wandering the hills he entered a tunnel.

He was run over by the train...

The second episode
takes place in the 1940's

and we dedicate it to Domentii,
the son of Durmischan.

Domentii liked challenges
where he could show off his strength.

One time he locked himself up inside
the Batumi slaughterhouse's coldroom.

And in order to not freeze to death
in the -20?C cold,

he carried pigs all the night.

He won this bet.

Domentii worked as an instructor

for the organization for mass swimming.

The gay 40's.

The war had just ended.

Everywhere brass bands were playing.

Mass swimming was very popular.

The organizer of these events
was my father,

Domenii Dumbadze.

The director of the sport committee
makes a speech.

"Mass swimming has become
a popular sport."

"In swimming
certain abilities are trained,"

"that are required in labour
and in defending our country."

"And now we welcome our guest,"

"Odisei Meschi."

"Marathon swimming champion of 1941."

"His record has not been beaten
by anyone."

"Our guest hands over the trophy
to the contesters."

And that was how Odisei Meschi
entered the lives of our family.

Our father invited Odisei to a banquet.

The invitation was accepted.

When I remember this evening

I see a mirror,

in which the happy faces
around the table are reflected.

Odisei stealthily watches Lala,
my fathers sister.

Beso Antadze, the artist,
is secretly in love with Lala.

Next morning my father told Odisei
about his dream,

to swim from Batumi to Poti.

The blood of my ancestors
was flowing in my fathers veins.

The summer before the war
he prepared for the start.

But a week before the start
the war broke out.

"I am ready to swim now as well,
but Isidor says,"

'You came back from the front
with a contusion, it is too dangerous!'

"But I am strong as a bull!"

"I can be underwater for six minutes!"

"it is impossible."

"You wanna bet?"

"If I'll do it, will you help me
to organize the swimming?"

"Start the timer!"

Odisei watched the second hand,

and the beautiful profile of Lala.

I visited the old building
of the sport committee.

It is all desolate.

Only the frescoes
reminds of the turbulent years.

Odisei managed to get permission
for a trial race.

"If Domentii makes 15 km
with a good result,"

"then he'll have the permission
to swim the long distance swim."

The trial course Batumi-
Zeliolni Mis and back.

My father made it in excellent time,

Six hours and 40 minutes.

He got his permission
to swim Batumi-Poti.

From that day on
Domentii did not get up from the water.

Odisei Meschi took interest
in Domentiis swimming,

as well as in Lala.

"And dad just swum?"


"And he had no clue?"


Domentii was proud of being friends
with the great swimmer.

Odisei prepared him for the long swim.

"Is this the aquarium?"

So many years have passed,

and yet is is as if nothing has changed
here on the veranda.

A shell thrown in the water.

It is strange,

that such a silly thing would become
so ominous in my father's life.

I remember that day in smallest detail.

On the veranda they were playing lotto.

Father was resting.

In two days he was going to swim.

Odisei walked up to the aquarium,

took a porcelain elephant,

and dropped it in the water.

He created the rules of the game
for us children.

Mimicking him we started to throw
different figurines into the water.

At the time I didn't understand
what was happening,

to the director of the sport committee

or why dad went so pale.


Domentii did not turn up.

He had disappeared.

"We have to cancel the race."

"It is irresponsible on his behalf!"

"You should know where he is!"

"Why should I know?"

In our family album,

there were plenty photos of that kind.

Odisei did not leave Batumi alone.

He brought with him Lala
on a wedding trip.

Nobody knew what this man had done,

in order to remain

the unbeaten champion.

Here swum my grandfather Durmischan.

"Why don't you swim?"

What could I answer her?

"Now let's sing the last verse"

This is my work.

Cultural worker at
the Tbilisi Excursion Bureau.

I want to touch the sea, enter it,

remember that love my ancestors
felt for long distance swimming.

I owe my grandfather and my father.

I have to challenge myself.

"Swimming contest in remembrance"

"of the legendary Georgian swimmers"

"Durmischan and Domentii Dumbadze."

"Swimming contest in remembrance
of all swimmers."


The End