Discovery

GODLESS

Ralitza Petrova

A young physiotherapist struggling to survive in an economically depressed mountain town in post-Communist Bulgaria forms an unlikely friendship with one of her elderly patients, in this sublime morality play about the corruptibility of the human spirit and the possibility of atonement.

One of the most striking debuts to come out of Bulgaria in recent times, Godless is a sublime morality play about the corruptibility of the human spirit and the possibility of atonement. It announces Ralitza Petrova's arrival as that of an auteur with a fully formed vision of cinema.

A young physiotherapist, Gana (Irena Ivanova), lives in a poor town on a wintry mountainside, where she earns a living by assisting the elderly — and supplements her meagre income by selling her patients' ID cards on the black market. She's stuck in a loveless relationship, and her existence seems to mirror that of the town itself: a life cycle deprived of beauty and desire by post-Communist survivalism. As if by providence, a glimmer of hope arrives in Gana's new-found companionship with Yoan, an elderly patient (Ventzislav Konstantinov). Desensitized and disconnected by their harsh environment, they gradually fi nd solace in each other's company, which awakens in Gana an empathy that will drive her physical and spiritual escape from the town.

Petrova renders this world of fatalism and damaged ethics with impressive directorial control, closely observing her cast of mainly non-professional actors through a documentary-like lens. Anchored by the stoic sorrow of Ivanova's harrowing debut performance, Godless is an experiential tour de force, claustrophobically framed in a 4:3 aspect ratio and shot in desaturated colour on 35mm. Taking us through a post-industrial landscape of abandoned souls and ruined lives, Petrova's film gradually evolves from art-house drama to spiritual journey, shining a divine light on our shadowy human condition.

DIMITRI EIPIDES

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