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This is a screen version of the short story 'Dervish Seed' from great Bulgarian writer Hikolai Haitov. The action takes place in an old-time village in the Rhodope mountains. A boy grows up in a mountainous village. To make sure that the 'dervish seed' of their clan will be preserved, his relatives decide to arrange a marriage for him. His fiancé is a beautiful girl. The Boy is hardly 14 when he is married off to a girl he sees for the first time on his wedding night. The young people fall for each other, but they are still kids, unable to cope with hardships all by themselves. Neither has yet emerged from their childhood and simply gets carried away by childish games, so that the morning the bride is still the maiden she was before. The girl's brothers strike a bargain with a neighbor and swap their sister for two goats. A rich man, who also is setting his affection upon the girl, pays off a ransom and takes the girl off. Years pass by. Both the boy and the girl have families of ... Written by
Georgi Djulgerov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film one could say represents one of the most impressive achievements of Bulgarian cinema. It is relatively unknown however, even in its own country of origin. Nevertheless, it is a beautifully realised film - effective in its use of misty, snow-caped mountainous terrains as its setting and visually imposing with its intense, psychological dissection of the raw peasant mind.
Its scarcity of dialogue is more than compensated for in the brutally honest voice of the narrator who is also the main character. There is a cold, eerie feeling of isolation inherent in the tiny secluded village where the story unfolds, set at the bottom of a precipice - a wild, enigmatic landscape which itself reflects on a symbolic level the savagery and rawness of the characters. It almost recalls Brueghel's mysterious but true-to-life paintings of rural life at the turn of the Renaissance.
Nonetheless, the nuanced, authentic portrayal of the main character in particular stands out as the most profound aspect of the film. The pains, perils and all the cathartic vicissitudes that torture his soul throughout the film have ultimately served a good cause - he is 'purified' and emerges as a man of remarkable moral stature which is at the core of the film's final resolution. His unfulfilled love has indeed forcibly left him devoid of true happiness but it has ennobled him and the overwhelming tide of his seemingly unfortunate destiny ('orisiya') has been rendered meaningful and spiritually potent in his final sacrifice where he has evidently defeated his former spite, rising above it with his sacramental act of devotion to the love of his life.
As I said there is a prevalent rawness to the characters which makes them original and all the more sincere. In fact they are perfectly attuned to what is the almost post-apocalyptic atmosphere within the film and rather than words, the characters use the language of emotions and actions - the most universal language no doubt. They are closer to us as humans precisely because of this.
The film is not frilled by excessive drama and is not a conventional tragedy, not least because none of the main characters actually die. It is simple, honest film-making at its most effective.
The main character's iniquitous fate ('orisiya') perhaps represents God at his worst, but his final action is humanity at its best.
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