photo: Chouchkov brothers studio

Victor Chuchkov's "18% Gray" - a son may recently be seen in cinemas and, as usual, read the book expecting to be compared to the movie. In fact, they will find quite a few discrepancies but the tone remains the same. In both cases, Zack is an immigrant who, after a crisis in his personal life, embarks on a journey that has subsequently become an internal catharsis for him. However, the place and time are different. The book, with the same title by Zahari Karabashliev, is one of the popular contemporary Bulgarian novels and tells about Zack's trip to America in the early 90's, and the film is about today's Europe, but that difference doesn't matter, because the dimensions of the soul are eternal. 

Zach (Rushi Vidinliev) and his beloved Stella (Dolya Havanski) are artists from Varna who left for London after Zack was nominated for a prestigious photographic award. But soon he realizes that there will not be waiting for his dreamed opportunities and career. No one notices him, no one finds him, and he is forced to take the life of an emigrant, with tedious work and eternal shaking in the subway. His talent is wasted and ideas rarely come. It blurs into diversity, but an anonymous crowd. It fades among the city's many colorways as a universe pops into it, which will explode if it is not released freely. However, his crisis is more than a creative standstill. Like an avalanche, it drags itself further and further behind. His personal life also fails. The rivalry is established not only on the basis of marital jealousy, but also as a professional race. Stella, although unsuccessful in marketing her paintings, finds a good realization as a gallery curator and reaps success after success as Zack continues to sink.            

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The central focus of the film is Zack's journey after Stella's death. He heads to Berlin to search for her and maybe himself. Along the way he meets different freaks, each with a different fate and pain, and shoots them. Each person is revealed to him in a daring revelation, through which he experiences himself as if he were more real. Photography serves as a reflection of the inner self. Although I am photographing the outside world, the author places in his viewfinder only that which reflects his personal condition at the moment. Through the mirror of his photographs, he is able to see himself in an image as crystal clear as his mediocre eye has ever dared to see. Now he expresses himself so clearly for the first time and establishes his creative handiwork. Shaken by the death of a loved one, he is driven to unleash himself because masterpieces are born in excess. 

Zack's creative and life-giving path, while penetrating, reveals nothing new to us. Traveling through a country, or continent in this case, and getting to know its hidden faces, is a tradition set in the first half of the 20th century. It is well known for photographers like Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Louis Hein, for example, who shoot everything that sweets America under the rug and forever change the role of photography. They turn it from artistic to social art and show that it deserves attention not only the beautiful and the pleasant, but also the grotesque and the ugly, that even the second little more, because his digestion can help the person to grow. 

 

Photography and death are not the first time. Zack's searches are reminiscent of Wim Wenders' Palermo Photos, who is also a photographer trying to overcome his mother's loss. And how exactly photography resembles death is perhaps best said by renowned Portuguese photographer Paulo Nozolino: "There is something horribly dead in photography, because things will never be the same as they are in the photos. It is this ability of photography to freeze the moment forever, which connects it to death. Photography is death. "

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