"Elevation", directed by Viktor Bozhinov, was released in 2017 and instantly became one of the most successful Bulgarian films of recent years, setting a record number of viewers only during its premiere weekend. The film is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Milen Ruskov, which he received European Union Literature Prize in 2014 with this novel. He has won several other national awards before that.

 

We return to 1872 and the troubled times of the Bulgarian Revival. There, the plot is developed around the Arabakonak robbery, committed by the associates of Dimitar Obshti (Philip Avramov), who, however, turns out to be not so much a central character as the two fictional characters Gicho (Alexander Alexiev) and Asencho (Stoyan Doychev). Burdened with the difficult task of handing over to Levski the letter from Dimitar Obshti, they roam the bushes and hills, go to villages and municipalities to look for the Apostle. They often fall into disfavor, and the comic situations in which they keep getting involved give them a very unheroic look. It is difficult for them to reach Levski, he always deceives them one step ahead, but on the other hand, they quench their thirst for adventure, fight for change, defend ideology, go against the established course of today. Aspirations so typical of every young person, because it is no coincidence that the restless spirit of the young is the one who has always made revolutions.

"Elevation" reveals the heroic image of the Revivalists, often presented as individuals woven only of virtues. Now, together with their valor, they combine the real human qualities inherent in ordinary people. This makes the characters complex, authentic and very interesting. Precisely because of the primordial nature of human nature, which they embody, they excite us not only in the historical context, but also as organic psychological models of the Bulgarian and man as a whole.

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"Elevation" is written in the language of the Renaissance, which due to its remoteness from the modern Bulgarian language, sounds somewhat ridiculous and comical, saturated with the same style that gives a funny tone to some of the current dialectal forms, condemned in terms of literary expression. The meaning of the words, however, remains clear enough to understand how well he describes the timeless characters, the archetypes of Bulgarian folk psychology. Gicho and Asencho are universal. We would see them no less successfully as our contemporaries. They are the Bulgarian Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. With their fragile horse and their eternal tragicomic troubles, they complement the two principles of human nature - the noble and the primitive.

Gicho is a spirited young intellectual, reads the Fish Primer and never misses an opportunity to demonstrate his higher ideals. He dreams of exalting the Bulgarians. He believes that the revolution must be moral, to happen both inside and outside, because without enlightenment, even if it wins its independence from the Turks, our people would not be truly free.

 

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Asencho is far simpler and stupider, but because of that he does not hide his weaknesses. He is sincere in all his intentions. He says out loud things that many would think but would not dare to share. He reasoned, for example, that the money stolen from the Turkish treasury, which was supposed to finance the uprising, could be taken for themselves and thus live their lives. We feel in moments like this a slightly creeping between the lines critique of the Bulgarian mentality. The characters reflect many of the eternal qualities of the Bulgarian, such as bullying, subservience, arrogance. But although nothing human is alien to them, Gicho and Asencho finally seem to have come closer to the hill, precisely because, despite their weaknesses, they have tried to be heroes, they have tried to walk the path, and in part they have succeeded.

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