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12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Character and Soul, Theatricality




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This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Character and Soul, Theatricality

What are, however, the essential characteristics of the Bulgarian
cinema, which could help it get closer to, or, on the contrary, further
away from the European limelight, after decades of life in the basements
and the sterile studies of a Balkan totalitarianism? What is the "history
of the disease" which has brought the national film industry to its painful
mutations? And can the x-rays of its new body verify the existence of soul
and free will for new life?

Theatricality.

Ronald Holloway refers to the Bulgarian Literary
Revival of the past century, trying to explain why "the theatrical narrative
dominates over visual expression for the Bulgarian film artist." It is not
necessary to dig so deep into the past to see that the film industry of the
country was built as a superstructure of a strong theatrical tradition.
Because of the late, in fact repeated, start of the national film
production in the fifties, the first directors, actors and writers came
directly from the theater. The same situation can be seen once again on the
academic level in the second period of the Bulgarian cinema, when the Film
School was founded and attached to the Sofia Academy of Dramatic Art in
1973. The first graduates of the school made their debuts in the early
eighties. Several other factors contributed to this orientation of
Bulgarian cinema. Three very influential writers -- Angel Wagenstein,
Valeri Petrov and Yordan Radichkov -- put an emphasis on the narrative
rather than on the visual style of the films in that initial
period. Finally, the social and political imperatives of the day determined
a greater concern with the text of the script, which was the explicit
bearer of the ideological message. From the point of view of the ultimate
film producer, the State, it was much easier to comprehend, control and
eventually censor the narrative than to deal with a much more complex and
ambiguous cinematic language. As in the Hollywood studio system during that
time, the director was not an artist, but rather an artisan, while the
producer was the quintessential author of the final product, be it
propaganda or mere entertainment. Nowadays, in the end of the third major
period of Bulgarian cinema, it is ridiculous to insist that theatricality
is one of its dominant distinctions, though the birth-marks of a pathetic
loquacity and some theatrical structural and temporal peculiarities -- for
example, a notably slower pace -- can still be spotted now and then.

 

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