Truth Has Different Faces: Kazakova and Mileva's Discussion On Power in "Cat In The Wall" (2019)


    You'll probably think twice before making assumptions about a stray cat's identity the next time you see one. Vesela Kazakova and Mina Mileva's vibrant depiction of a no-nonsense Bulgarian immigrant in Cat In The Wall shows that there is always more to the pursuit of food and shelter, for both humans and felines, wretched and poor, each with their dreams and their fears.

    Irina (Irina Atanasova) is a regular taxpayer who owns an apartment in East Peckham, in London, which she shares with her preschool son Jojo (Orlin Asenov) and brother Vladimir (Angel Genov). The siblings are university-educated headstrong individuals who support each other through thick and thin. They struggle with making ends meet by working low wage jobs. Irina and Vladimir's daily quarreling is placated by the arrival of an adorable ginger-haired stray cat into their jumpy home atmosphere. Vladimir and Jojo claim the cat immediately and confirm their authority by naming him Zlatko ("a golden one"). As soon as the new owners learn that Zlatko is in fact someone else's treasure, Irina's go-getter attitude starts crumbling.

    The movie's brick setting influences the characters politically and literally. Fights over the ownership of the cat happen on the floors of the building that is constantly under maintenance. The camera closely follows Irina's gradual adjustment to the building in scenes where she visits its corners in order to set up a friendly neighbor meeting. Her red coat makes her stand out from the crowd, reminding the neighbors of her intrusive presence as a down-to-earth woman who does not fear change but embraces it. The directors' bright treatment of Irina's attempts at being a likeable neighbor is powered by scenes in which Vladimir and Rianna (Chinwe Nwokolo) repeatedly look through their apartment windows. The camera is positioned within Vladimir's apartment and allows the audience to be present in his moments of introspection. Meanwhile, the directors enhance Rianna's rival status by remaining outside her apartment. Playing with different perspectives creates a complex ladder of power relations, perpetually lacking an element of real dominance.

    In linking Irina and the cat, who share equal screen time and are often portrayed in matching close-ups, Kazakova and Mileva's bring their fates together as two creatures disappearing into their living space, with Irina forced to drag the cat out of a wall. The broken connection and ineffective communication between Irina’s family and the neighbors, on the other hand, is neatly summed up by Vladimir being forced to install antennas for work. A lively but dark sketch about social alienation, exemplified by a trick-or-treat expedition that sees the family dress up as, respectively, a witch, a prisoner and a ghostbuster. These are the identities left for the characters to slip into as non-British political subjects, in what amounts to a vivid, matter-of-fact excerpt from the life of immigrants. It is a quirky but irresistibly entertaining exploration of truth as a multifaceted concept, with serious political consequences.