photo: Bulgarian National Film Library

One of the emblematic films for our native cinema, compared to even world models, with the films of Paradzhanov, for example, is "Patched Shoes of the Unknown Warrior" (1979).


Rangel Valchanov wrote the script back in the 60's of the last century. This is the only film by Valchanov in which he is a screenwriter and director, as well as an actor (playing himself). The operator is Radoslav Spasov and the music is by Kiril Donev. The cast includes the names of Slavka Ankova (grandmother Slava), Emilia Marinska (Bela strina), Ivan Stoichkov (grandfather Dobrin), Borislav Tsankov (Monet). The tape also won a number of awards. He received the distinction of SBFD (Union of Bulgarian Film Actors) for set design, then for directing from the Festival of Bulgarian Feature Films (Varna, 1980), for costumes of UBF (Varna, 1980) and the Grand Prize "Golden Peacock" "From the Delhi 1981 International Film Festival

Rangel Valchanov

In addition to its remarkable biography, Rangel Vulchanov's film is also characterized by a very well-established cinematic poetry. "The Unknown Warrior's Patent Shoes" is a kind of gallery where a number of specific techniques for our native cinema can be viewed. The production combines various modernist prostitutes, which have been actively involved in the art since the 60 years, as well as the topics and issues that have become ill at the same time, managing to recreate the image of the individual and the people as a collective social and psychological unit. Through the strong lyricization and ritualization of everyday life, the change of the narrator's perspective (through the eyes of a child), the use of the flow of consciousness, the director manages to create a new picture for the world. Nostalgia for the native, opposition to the native - foreign, childhood melancholia or the motive for home, gender and family do not go unnoticed.

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In general, at one structural-compositional level, we can divide production into several distinctive parts, framed from beginning to end. These conventionally named parts are three and represent the main plot of the film. The first shows us "People's Daily", the second "Wedding" and the third "Funeral".


The beginning is visual, plastic and syncope. It starts with a number of second frames summarizing the main motives. We see the parade in front of Buckingham Palace, the march of the English soldiers with their patent leather shoes, at the same time Bulgarian peasants appear, a dance is played, and the steps secretly dialogue with the march. The whole "chaos" hints at the opposition native - foreign and reveals the nostalgia for the homeland, which will crystallize in the next shots. The syncopated-visionary, wordless and associative technique is a character for Bulgarian cinema, especially for our black-and-white films and twists, it is present here brightly and not only at the beginning, but along the whole length.

video: BNT

Immediately after this introduction, the real part is revealed. Between the main plot and the beginning, there is a brief "intermediate", which contains two important characteristics. Namely, the verbal beginning, expressed by direct confession embodied in the voice-over voice, is revealed. He will move the story, address the viewer directly and even speak through the main character (the song Monet sings but with the voice of the elder Rangel Valchanov). The latter is an innovative endeavor in home cinema and a brilliant metaphor. There are very few productions in which film dialogue has the element of spoken speech - conceptual and meaningful.


In The Stranger Warrior's Patent Shoes, the conversation is greatly reduced. There are separate sporadic cues coming to seal the picture, giving authenticity through its dialectal sound. Even in the few times that attempts at dialogue are observed. He is, in fact, a monologue because of the inability of one side to speak (Monet - the Goat; Monet - the dead grandfather; Monet - the white dove, etc.).

Another important moment is the appearance of the folk-harvest song, the melody of which will give rise to "that army of childhood memories" that make up the main cinematic text. The film can also be defined as a kind of collection of songs. Each plot is also the plot of a folk song - for "The Harvest", for "The War", for "The Wedding" and "The Burning of Home and Family", for "Sofia the Great City", etc. Everywhere we come across a song, a song catches up with us. , from a song is born the very provocation for its creation. This is an eloquent example of the strongly expressed folk origin. The Bulgarian tape actively mixes mythology, folklore and modernity. In "The Varnished Shoes of the Unknown Warrior" the impurities are often present, and the frequent use of syncopated shots can be explained by the everyday beginning. Syncope is an inherited code from the folklore tradition, in which many repetitions, jumps, gaps and uneven rhythmic sequence are observed. 


As we said, the so-called. the real part can be divided into three fragments. The first presents to the viewer the daily rhythm of the Bulgarian people “once, many years ago, somewhere in the countryside”. It contrasts with the others because it is too associative, plastic, the rhythm is fast-paced and at times there are meaningful failures. The plot it recreates is far too extensive, though it may be the shortest part in time. The emphasis is on the descriptions of the patriarchal daily life of the peasant. Many everyday everyday scenes are ritualized through songs, through mass shots of the people, through various movements and replicas of individual actors or through specific movements of the camera. The agricultural labor, the collection of bottles by Grandma Slava, the quarrels of relatives, the fragments of the flood and the robbery of the fish are sacralized by the ritual of the recurring event. Frequently used replicas like "every Friday" or "every winter" create a sense of multiplicity.


The screenwriter-director escapes from the profane historical-linear time and transfers the action to the sacred and cyclical time-space. Ritualization is characteristic of the native cinema, because it disguises the "everyday life", bringing it to a festive-sacred level. The part itself is also preparatory for the subsequent events, as the festive and folklore reach their peak at the end - through the "wedding of Black Uncle and White Aunt", "the cremation of home and family" and "the funeral of Grandpa Dobrin". 


The following sections can be considered at the same time, as they dialogue with each other and illustrate a feature inherent in the Bulgarian people. After the hurried plot, the real ritual is reached at the beginning, and from there the film changes the speed of movement. Time slows down the familiar rhythm, injecting a sense of stillness. The desired timelessness has been reached. The whole plot is viewed through the prism of two antonymous rituals - wedding and funeral. The wedding dance becomes a permanent shot. The dance is a common cinema-genetic code, through which the image of the Bulgarian of that time is depicted figuratively and symbolically. It turns the crowd into a nation and is an emanation of the folklore-ritual. Significantly loaded are the shots of the horo detaching from the earth, through which reality is erased to transport us to another mystical and fantasy time.


The hidden dialogue between the wedding and the funeral is interesting. At first, the viewer watches the wedding, but in seconds, the operator shows us a funeral procession. Then, by way of a reverse projection, the wedding was briefly mentioned in the background of the funeral (Monet's words: "It was only me and the goat at the funeral because the whole village was at a wedding."). The fragment with the funeral procession and the ensuing flock of black buffaloes is extremely important. Definitely in this episode, Valchanov plays with the colors - white (happiness) is suddenly displaced by black (sorrow). In this respect, the music mixes the merry wedding songs with the sad burial bells of the bells. The author reveals the permanent sadness of the Bulgarians, caused by the existence of pole states - intoxicating joy and constant, insurmountable grief. Rangel Vulchanov manages to translate into the language of cinema a characteristic folk-psychological trait. 


One of the specifics of the film is the idea of ​​the screenwriter-director to recreate reality through the eyes of a child. Many times we watch the camera move along with the child's gaze (at harvest, the camera shoots from the sight of the swinging baby; several frames of the wedding choir are inverted because the main character is head down). Children's consciousness achieves greater freedom at the temporal, semantic, ideological and compositional levels. The very behind the voice cast blends in with the main character, they are one. They are no different, as in films like Amarcord, in which we see a deliberate distance from the character because of the age of experience that lies between them. The Stranger Warrior's Patent Shoes boasts a plurality of images (child - male - author). The behind-the-scenes storyteller comments, explains the character's actions to the child, but does not interpret them, but remains fused with him. 


Through the hero child Rangel Valchanov reveals the image of the Bulgarian as a whole. Along with the positive aspects, negative qualities are also shown - the thefts of Grandma Slava, murder, drunkenness, search for benefits, profit, etc. But spent through the prism of children's worldview they are more innocent, joking, cartoonish. The words stated at the beginning that "the most numerous are the memories of exaggerations, irresponsible exaggerations, and lies" move the film and blur the boundaries between the real and the imaginary. It is not clear whether the murder took place, or is a memory, or a childish fabrication. Through the imagination of the child, who does not know time values, the author breaks the sequence of the epic story. He manages to score a lot of shots that would otherwise be unnatural.


The image of war is indicative. The battle is passed on as a child's play, and in the end the soldiers are toys. The participants are the grandparents, the hundred relatives, because this is where the child's consciousness extends. The child builds the world only through what is already known. The movements and remarks of the adults are simplified in a childish way. This again speaks of the desire to mitigate the tragic. Such hybridity, the tragedy of intertwining, somewhat intuitively, somewhat sought after, with laughter, is a characteristic feature of the native cinema. Throughout the film, the carnival creeps in as a background. The plot shows in one place immature old men, timeless wiser children, an adult voice sings a folk song with the mouth of a minor child, giving birth to grandmothers and black bridegrooms-kids, wedding guests grazing grass, collecting empty bottles, foreign languages ​​that are only "but -ball ", etc.


Submitted cartoon deep-seated folk problems is one of Rangel Valchanov's greatest successes. And the most appropriate pictorial technique is the choice of the child as the protagonist. Through childhood consciousness, the author is able to convey all these absurd combinations as something completely normal. It is no accident that the main characters are children and old people, they lack the images of mother and father, because they are dependent on objective time, on the surrounding reality, and therefore remain unnecessary to the film.


Undoubtedly, "The Varnished Shoes of the Unknown Warrior" is one of the representative Bulgarian films, combining many characteristic techniques, images and symbols that make up the poetics of Bulgarian cinema. The film brings together folklore, mythology and modernity, the traditional and the modern collide and begin to speak the same language. 

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