Sunday, 17 January 2016

Film: The Patent Leather Shoes of the Unkown Soldier

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a film showing of the Bulgarian Film 'The Patent Leather Shoes of the Unknown Soldier' as part of the SSEES 100 Years Film Festival.
Admittedly I am not very au fair with Bulgarian Cinema but having studied Russian Cinema for many years decided to give it a whirl. To me there were many similarities between the two cinematic styles, perhaps not unsurprising given the Soviet link, but there were a couple of things that struck me about the film.
The first was the use of memory and its link to the narrator's childhood in rural Bulgaria. This trope is not unusual and could easily be compared to other cinematic work's such as Tarkovskii's Mirror. However, the thing which interested me is how the memories are triggered; the protagonist accidentally hits play on his tape recorder and hears a recording of some peasant music from his native land. Nothing unusual in that you might say, but what is interesting is that this occurs while he is on assignment in London and is outside Buckingham Palace watching the changing of the guard while Feed the Bird from Mary Poppins plays. Was the director aiming for a link with this film? I think yes. Both films are told from the point of view of children, have fantastical elements too them, and an unhappiness which needs resolving.
Further if the director were wanting to engage a Western audience this music could have the same effect on a Western viewer as the peasant music on the narrator. The question is why specifically the West? If the director chose this music to establish that the narrator is in the West it is not needed as he has already shown footage of London and the iconic Buckingham Palace.Therefore there must be some other reason who its inclusion.
The second thing I found interesting in the film was the use of exaggeration. For example in family scenes where the narrator finds something noisy it is too noisy, when he describes the marriage between his uncle and aunt as sad the bride is overtly sad, and when it is mentioned that the family resemble animals the next scene is of them grazing happily on all fours like sheep. To me this links back to the link with Mary Poppins where the characters dance with chimney sweeps and jump into pictures drawn on the street.
The link between these two films may be subtle but is indeed there. This is one film I would recommend any fan of Eastern European Cinema sees, partly so I can discuss my theory with you.

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