by Fabien Lemercier
- A chance love-at-first-sight encounter and luminous road movie in a bleak Bulgaria. A debut feature unveiled at Cannes and winner of the Cineuropa Award at Sarajevo.
A chance love at first sight encounter, the charm of a road movie and a rather sombre portrait of modern-day Bulgaria and disoriented youth sum up Konstantin Bojanov’s directorial debut Avé [+see also:
interview: Konstantin Bojanov
film profile], screened in competition at International Critics’ Week of the Cannes Film Festival.
Avé (Anjela Nedyalkova) is a pretty 17-year-old who lies compulsively for fun or because she has to. One day, she meets Kamen (Ovanes Torosyan), a taciturn student trying to hitchhike his way from Sofia to Ruse. Clinging to his side in the first car they get into, Avé pretends to be Kamen’s sister, saying that they are going to visit their grandmother who has cancer. She seems out to have a good time, whilst Kamen, despite his astonishment, says nothing, other than that he is in a rush.
On the next leg of their journey, Avé pretends to be his girlfriend and excites (in English) a truck driver, swindling him out of €50 to watch her and Kamen make out. As she drags Kamen along on her nocturnal escape, she tells him she grew up in India.
The following day, after hitching a lift from a reggae amateur, Avé tells the umpteenth lie – this time about Kamen’s brother dying in Iraq – and Kamen finally cracks, telling Avé he doesn’t want to be involved in her lies. The driver throws them out, hitting both. Clearly annoyed, Kamen tells Avé he’s going to the funeral of his best friend who committed suicide and brusquely parts ways with Avé. But the young woman meets up with him later, continuing her game with incredible nerve (she passes herself off as the suicide victim’s former lover), unveiling her fragility and true weaknesses (a junkie brother and family problems), and falling in love with the alienated Kamen.
In combining a love story with social drama about a confused youth, the amusing lightness of the couple’s relationship and a mood void of hope (ugly surroundings, complex family problems, the baseness and sadness of the encounters), Avé offers a discrete account of loneliness and the disintegration of social harmony.
Filmed in slightly muted tones and carried by the rhythm and the mystery of an excellent opening, Bojanov’s debut – which is not without its flaws – rightly exploits the charm of its two protagonists and depicts a worrying portrait of the future of young errant Bulgarians who dream of running away.
Produced by Bulgaria and France via Elements Ltd, Camera Ltd and KB Films, with support from the Bulgarian National Film Centre and co-produced by Bulgarian National Television, Avé is being sold worldwide by Le Pacte.
(Translated from French)