- Yana Titova’s second feature is a coming-of-age tale from the Bulgarian provinces in which a strong personality comes to the fore before her time to make up for absent parenting
In Bulgaria, as in other ex-communist Balkan countries, the post-totalitarian liberalisation of life unfurled alongside the phenomenon of chalga – a music style which entangles pop rhythms with elements of oriental čoček, but which fundamentally promotes an overly sexualized and exclusively consumerist lifestyle grounded in basic instincts. Dyad [+see also:
interview: Yana Titova
film profile]’s protagonist Dida (talented find Margarita Stoykova) represents the second generation who have already developed their life views to the tune of this soundtrack, which proclaims that owning Ferraris and silicone bimbos are the road to happiness. Chalga values have penetrated official culture, so it’s no wonder adolescents buy into its cheap illusions; they’re the products and victims of this culture, whether they come from modest or well-off families. In an indirect manner, whilst still clearly referencing the collapsed educational system, Yana Titova’s film –which has competed in the Golden Rose Film Festival in Varna’s Feature Film Competition, where it won the Best Directing award and shared the Best Film award with Blaga's Lessons [+see also:
interview: Stephan Komandarev
film profile]– tries to map the consequences of chalga’s all-encompassing influence.
Initially, there are two characters: Dida and her double, or at least that’s how it looks from the outside. Her friend Iva (Petra Tsarnorechka) is the more feminine and submissive of the pair, talking non-stop about her boyfriend and pampered by her nouveau riche family who give the impression of enjoying a posh lifestyle but who actually live on credit. They’re inseparable, but whilst Iva looks happy, Dida’s ultimate goal in life is to get out of there at any cost: by “recruiting” shy girls for online prostitution or by orally pleasuring her classmates in the schoolyard or her nasty sports teacher in breaks between binge drinking with her father. She’s prepared to do anything to get enough money together for a ticket to the United States, where she plans to pursue a fine arts degree and believes her distant mother, who’s nothing more than a blurred image on a desktop, is waiting for her. The world abuses her, but it’s not a one-way street. Emotionally restrained and self-controlling even when facing an abortion, she suddenly explodes when her dyads with Iva and her estranged mother fall apart.
We’ve seen this story many times before, especially in the coming-of-age genre and especially in an Eastern European context: an unloved girl abandoned by her parents as a result of their own immaturity and meagre prospects on life becomes prone to cynical behaviour as a self-protective mechanism while committing most of the mistakes common to her age. What sets Dyad apart, however, is its approach to describing Dida’s environment; it’s not just about her dysfunctional family, useless education or the corrupted collective mind, it’s about a lack of meaningful communication at all levels, embodied by a diverse palette of characters and their constant superficial tattle: incompetent or sadistic teachers; the indifferent psychologist, the vulgar and often drunk father, the absent, on-and-off mother who’s their only online call in the film. A hectic ensemble of established Bulgarian actors illustrates the rot involved in social disintegration whilst organically appearing alongside non-professionals who play the students, including Stoykova and Tsarnorechka who are promising newcomers in central roles. Director of photography Martin Balkansky’s use of bright colours to tell an increasingly dark story is a witty approach, underlining the contrast between the candy illusions implied by the chalga narrative and the brutal reality beneath the surface.
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