Sneakers / Kecove

Dir. Ivan Vladimirov, Valeri Yordanov

Six people escape from Sofia. Their flight is depicted humorously, dashingly and briefly: for example, the camera is watching trough the shop window how the 50-year-old drunkard slaps his woman across the face. The next moment a girl in working clothes runs into the café, he pushes her outside, but she immediately reappears to pour his beer on his head. Almost a silent comedy. Running their separate ways they utter lines of dialogue from which we learn unbearably tragic stories which were wisely left out by the authors so as not to insult the film medium with their prints. One of them was writing a script and meticulously repaired furniture in his rented flat. The landlady knew about his plight and constantly raised the rent so that he was forced to take more and more orders which seriously interfered with his script. Another was speeding to the village to see his father and almost bumped into his coffin. The third one, still very young, started out as a successful boxer, but earned five haematomas in his head which now cause him to lose his temper at the wrong moment and beat up policemen whom his drunken mind mistakes for hoodlums.

All together they will end up on the sea shore. Here the compulsive race of the stories stops, giving way to a different rhythm. Jackets and working clothes are shed. Their bodies suddenly become agile and their arms which were created to embrace someone, are open to the sun and the sea, the honest eyes and the lips hungry for a kiss are open to the camera which one of them is carrying and with which they share their intimacies. Their stories are strikingly different from those we heard in the beginning like the ones about the greedy landlady, alcoholic mother and wanderings about Sofia night clubs. “I am going back to the village and I am taking my brother with me. If need be, I’ll cut this city from his brain with a chainsaw”, says one of them. “In the East when a warrior dies, they say he went West. I’ll head the other way. I’ll shine on you from the East. With no fear and shame. Free and proud”, - promises the other. “What do I hate? People. No, not that. I hate the people, who force me to be ashamed of myself” - muses the third, drawing deeply on his cigarette and looking straight into the camera.

I heard one Indian astrologist say: “The unhappy man is the one who is out of his mind”. “Sneakers” is a movie about six people who have broken loose from someone else’s mind and are beginning to live by their own brains. What turns this film into a masterpiece – ad this is undoubtedly the long awaited masterpiece – is the acting among other things. Six impeccable acting accomplishments: from the ones by acknowledged stars like the sad clown Ivan Barnev (“I Served the King of England”) who is booked for years ahead in Bulgaria and “Sneakers” co-director Valeri Yordanov (“Stolen Eyes”, “Crayfish”) to the debutant Ivo Arykov whose work in Javor Gardev’s theatrical production of “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” was blessed by the author himself – Edward Albee – just like Tennessee Williams once blessed the young Pierce Brosnan. The comparison is justified. The guy is incredibly handsome and taking into account that his interests spread from Strindberg to animated films like “Just You Wait!”, there is just one way to describe the feeling when you listen to his monologue about becoming a simple manual laborer – heart attack. Orson Wells used to say: “If I had two lives, I would have devoted one of them entirely to the cocaine”. Arykov plays his boxer as though he were living his second life to the fullest, the one for which he would have had to forget Strindberg and would have never know Albee, but which would have been so sweet to live: the simple life of a handsome guy, whose existence is so easy up to a certain point but whom the state and society use as cannon fodder with sadistic pleasure and consistency worthy of a better application.

Skillfully using the wide screen the authors switch to amateur camera now and then, the one that accompanies the characters. The smoke from the fire still lingers, the same bagpipe of a stray Zambian is heard off-screen, but the morning mist clears already on the screen of the amateur camera. Only the tune is constant. The melting clouds and the earthly images, which time and again turn into cinema, remind us of the uneven light of Maya. Messiah from Richard Bach’s story of the sane mane took the protagonist to the movies to explain to him the meaning of earthly life: “When Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were dying you cried, you would have given up your life for them, but you did not die. Watch your own life like you watched this movie”. The time will come to remember these words when “Sneakers” take you to the closing scene.

Alexey Vasiliev