ж., -и разг. mug, phiz, pan, dial;
Mug ,informal A person's face.
British informal A stupid or gullible person.
US informal A hoodlum or thug.
Last week I headed to one of the screenings at Sofia Film Festival. 'Dreissig', written and directed by Simona Kostova. A German film by a Bulgarian writer and director, I thought sounds interesting. Yet, not too convinced by IMDB entry “'Dreissig' (German for 'thirty') portrays 24 hours in the life of five Berlin friends nearing thirty, all more or less suffering from a quarterlife crisis while celebrating the birthday of one of them.” I decided against advertising it to a friend so that I don’t have to listen to sulking and criticism in case the film is not good enough. Sofia Cinema House, once the cinema theatre of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers, is situated behind - when heading from the Centre - the building of the Council of Ministers. Hence, nearby what is lately called The Triangle of Power by Bulgarian media; which is the triangular space formed by the buildings of the Council of Ministers, the Presidency and the “Party House” - once siege of the Bulgarian Communist Party; nowadays out of site rooms and offices for the National Assembly. “Two rabbits with one shot. I will throw an eye at both protests and film” I thought.
Said as done, “the eye throwing” showed that Dreissig or Thirty is one of the best films I’ve seen lately. A film I will remember as a most successful remake of Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin aka Wings of Desire. The film that happens to be one of Simona Kostova’s, and mine, favourite films. The two hour graduation film, shot in eight days and a quasi zero budget (something like five thousand euros was mentioned), staring colleagues is a fine work and a loud slap in the face of the film industry showing how a chef d'oeuvre can still be carried out on the bare arms of pure talent and friendship - the group of friends featured in Dreissig are performing in each others film. I will be looking forward to seeing the other four-five films.
Measuring the importance of a piece of art by the importance of the questions it provokes in me and the profoundness of the sincerity it urges when answering, is an old habit of mine. Thus Dreissig exhumated a sort of continuation of a question I was asking myself while living in France “Does the suffering of the many justify the excellence of the few in the name of the creation of real art?”. To this question I would at times answer positively “Yes, it is worth it. If you need the arms of one million to throw up, up, up in the sky one single soul, so that it might go high, high, high up the sky and with mighty power to create art that will shine over the many as the sun in the daylight, or as the stars in the night sky through decades and centuries across time, so mote it be”. And sometimes while watching the sufferings of the guettards the answer would be “No, it is absolutely, not worth it. It is against the Christian faith, when one has suffered for the salvation of all and not the opposite”.
Thus, after Dreissig I paraphrased this old question to: “Is the creation of a product like Dreissig is worth the annihilation of old cultural layers?”. As for me, this is what EU funding does in Bulgaria - covers old cultural layers with new produce, mostly of dubious value. Not unlike the modern vinyl laminate that covers old wooden floors in many Sofia flats nowadays. And the answer is “No, nothing is worth the burial of old cultural layers”. Furthermore, Dreissig would have existed anyway, with or without EU and its funding; as it is a continuation of an older, bigger tradition of culture and art loving. Otherwise, the optimist that I am is now expecting the appearance of sub and contracultural currents in the EU because of the oppressive and restrictive principals on which art projects are funded. One of the most astonishing things during this trip to Bulgaria were the number of times I’ve heard friends saying things like “I am sorry, I can’t do this as I am working with EU funding”; “I can’t be seen there, as I am working with EU money”. And many more “I can’t say, go, write” etc to replace the first part of the sentence while keeping the last. I guess as many times as my mother was hearing the same sentence in communist times. With the only difference that at the time compliance was traded against a regular salary and central heating while now EU funding is sporading and arbitrary. Scarce and random as rain, EU funding cannot replace a proper irrigation system. But this is all the funding Bulgarian culture has now. This and Soviet-Gazprom money for the construction of false, national-discordia monuments.
Just as in Der Himmel über Berlin the Angel falls in love with a human being and desires to live a life incarnated in a human body; thus in Dreissig Simona Kostova’s angelically empathetic eye follows and inhabits her five friends from morning to morning. The camera tirelessly caresses their, at times made up, at times bare, German, Turkish, French and Iranian faces all through a day and a night out in Berlin.
“This is the most art film ever, without being… you know “arty” at all”, I tried to explain to a friend. “Was there a plot?”, he asked. “There must have been a plot, as I watched the film alert all through, but I can’t say what it was”, was my answer.
With or without a plot, Dressing helped me realize one thing about the protests running in Bulgaria already ten days. I am not sure about the kiss, but the protests are certainly about the faces.
The people protesting are saying that they are fed up with the lies, the corruption, EU funds syphoning etc. But what I see clearly now is that they are simply scared and disgusted by the ugliness of the faces in the current government. No previous government had this amount of ugly, thuggish faces as the current one.
Take the face of The General Prosecutor Geshev*, it looks like the face of a golem out of Pratchet’s Discworld novel. Yes, his clay face does have a nose, a mouth and two eyes. He also wears a cap, so that his head doesn’t open and the scripts that it contains doesn’t fall out. He also sounds like,... well, like a golem reading from a script scrolled in his head. And on the script is written “We have the full support of the government of the United States**. They have called us and backed us in our policy: “None is above the law” they said”. In each interview General Prosecutor Geshev reads this script at least twice. “Ok”, I would say, “You may have the full support of the government of the US, but this is because they don’t have to look at your face, in particular, and this government’s faces in general day in day out”. Your face is thuggy. Your face is scary. And so is your cap. It’s the same as Todor Zhivkov’s cap. We thought we left those in the past. But your cap reminds us of Todor Zhivkov whenever we see it. It reminds us also that Boiko Borisov, your boss, was Todor Zhivkov’s driver as well. We want to forget it, but we are continuously reminded of it. Yes, your cap reminds us that Bulgaria’s Prime Minister was the ex-ruler’s driver, turned national drug dealer while Minister of Interior, turned PM. It’s all coded in your cap!”
Take the face of the Chief Secretary of Interior Ivaylo Stefanov, he looks like Humpty Dumpty par excellence. His face reminds me of my teenage years when laying in each others’ laps we were doing “Imagine if your chin was your front and your front was your chin” exercise. Yes, Stefanov’s face looks literally inverted upside down. And no wonder, he is at the head of the dumpiest police in the world. The police that get displaced from one town to another to suppress protests without any update and knowledge of the actors of the protest or anything in general. The Like-in-Communist-Times-beating-police. The police that doesn’t talk to people. The police that DOES NOT SERVE! Humpty Dumpty, who would like to see your face? I give you one guess.
Boiko Love Child Borisov’s face? - Love Child is BB’s new nickname since I realized that he is the illegitimate, troubled fruit of the forbidden passion between Mother Angela and Father Vladimir - All the long lasting relationships with all the sophisticated downtown girls in the world won’t be enough to level LoveChildBB’s basic thuggy mug to the necessary worldliness of a decent Head of Government’s face. LoveChiledBB is also of the golem family. The script scrolled in his head is not very diverse either. Point one, the one written in capital letters there, is the Build Build Build point - to be not confused with EasterRabitJohnson - LoveChild is building highways. So while LoveChild bangs at all times about the highways he had build; the number of incidents on these same highways is growing year after year because of…. Yes, syphoning of the dedicated funds. Thus, when I was in Melnik, while the town was cut from the world for road repair, the local narrative was that the road was stripped from its old asphalt (?); the old asphalt was taken to the local factory where it was mixed again as new and reused as new for the road repair. According to this modern legend, in this way some ten out of the fourteen million euros went “privatized” - missing into private bank accounts. So yes, build build build, roads roads roads at least Easter Bunny Johnson is getting slimmer, younger and better looking day after day.
Etc etc etc no wonder people are worried that the COVID-unleashed EU funds will now enter the pows belonging to these scary, ugly faces. It is just a very nasty, overtly thuggish cast. And while the current Bulgarian government is probably not the worst government in the world, it is the top unattractive government in the EU for sure. A dramatically fallen attempt to cast decent, nice faces. If I was an angel, I wouldn’t be descending to contemplate the faces of this lot.
Cast is of extreme importance. Ask Simona Kostova.
* While the Prosecution, just as other institutions, should be an independent institution in Bulgaria it is somehow mysteriously related to the government.
** Another American institution that should pay close attention to Bulgaria is Hollywood. A moderately talented author could write three to five scripts out of a single Weekend newspaper edition; or between five to ten scripts out of a single Capital magazine issue. And a script per a cab-ride - the other day a cab drive expressed the opinion the LoveChiledBB can’t step down as “he will be killed in the frame of a year” and listed the names of four business-thugs - not sure how else to call them - that would be chasing him once he steps off duty. The cab-driver’s scenario left me speechless - such a dark idea hadn’t occurred to my mind. I, the natural born eccentric-thoughts-generator, was unable to counter him inventing a more inefable plot. How come? It must be life in the UK and all this positive thinking….
PS Having said all that it needs to be added: I perceive the destabilisation of any EU in particular and Western country in general at the present moment as Moscow & Evil forces inspired.