(Late Full Moon)
Bulgaria / Hungary 1996
Dir: Eduard Sachariev
117 min., 35mm, 1:1.66, Color, WP
Produktion: Eduard Sachariew. Co-Produktion: Bulgarisches Fernsehen, Filmstudio Budapest. Buch: Eduard Sachariew. Kamera: Emil Hristow. Ausstattung: Irena Muratowa. Schnitt: Kamen Ferdinandew. Ton: Iwan Wentzislawow. Musik: Kiril Donchew.
Darsteller: Itzak Finzti, Nikolai Urumow, Virginia Kelmelite, George Cherkelow.
Uraufführung: 4. Oktober 1996, Nationales Filmfestival Varna.
Weltvertrieb: Eduard Sachariew FEZ, 12, Kosta Lulchew Str. 13, Sofia, Bulgarien. Tel./Fax: (3592) 722593.
Sat 15.02. 16:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Sat 15.02. 19:00 Delphi Sun 16.02. 10:00 Arsenal Thu 20.02. 19:00 Babylon
The main character - the old man - is a strange person of difficult disposition. We see him with his family: his son, his daughter-in-law, and his grandson. The differences in their ages and personalities create tension between them. The son tries to adapt to the new circumstances and become a businessman. His efforts come to change him, and this endeavor meets with no understanding or support from the old man; equally, the son does not try to understand the old man. The family drifts apart. Everyone suffers alone.
We see a large orange moon in the sky. The clouds are moving swiftly across it. There is a yellow building between the trees. A dining room full of munching old people; one of them is the Old Man. He lives in an old people's home now. One night he runs away. An old woman who is in love with him also runs away.
The old man meets up with two friends from the past. They plan to rob a bank. But the odds are against them - a harmless joke takes the life of one of them. The plan has failed. The old man is left homeless. He sinks into despair as he is forced to root through rubbish bins to survive. Like in a fairy tale, he comes across a suitcase full of money - a pile of dollars! The old man and his son count the wads of money. It is the last time they meet and is a moment which is both dramatic and comic.
Once more the huge orange moon comes out ...
Eduard Zahariev's friends and colleagues know that facing imminent death the director was feverishly working on the completion of his last film. In the meantime LATE FULL MOON is in the cinemas.
An elderly man (Yitzhak Fintzi, Edy Zahariev's favourite who received the prize for best male actor at the 1996 Bulgarian Film Festival Varna) traverses through our time which is populated with newly rich business men and Mafiosi, with homeless people and emigrants who have made their luck abroad. The old man encounters a different world with new hierarchies where morality counts for nothing and ,the golden calf' is the object of adoration. He discovers a terrible truth: our children, perhaps even our grandchildren have been exposed to deadly radiation...
Eduard Zahariev wasn't a man of many words. In the few interviews he gave, he did, however, express the most precise criticism of Late Full Moon. The director seems to have worked towards this film all his life.
"At the beginning of my working life, I focused on films which did not offer an escape from reality. I was interested in achieving the opposite. I wanted to make the viewer think. These films have no fake beauty, they don't mislead us with supposedly ,beautiful things' which have nothing to do with our everyday lives. This doesn't mean that the topic ,beauty' was ignored but my whole experience of life drove me to search for ever deeper dimensions of beauty... At some point I began to ponder the unfathomable human being. Man is like a ,black box', surely you know the term from cybernetics.
What influences the ,black box', what happens in there? We often don't find out in real life. When something unexpected happens to someone we often say: storms and hurricanes must have torn apart his soul. Everyone has secrets to bear, the unspoken, the impossibility of looking into someone else's soul - this moves me deeply...
A person of integrity always remains true to himself. Even if he makes compromises, he never loses his integrity. External circumstances only influence people with an unformed character. Morality and integrity are independent of time, the economic situation and circumstances in life. They are often in conflict with our desire to be flexible and to adjust. This is one of life's tests. Modern society offers each of us free choice. We cannot be influenced by any powers. I don't think that moral values can be acquired through education or that positive examples can be forced upon anyone. We used to believe this was the case but we were wrong. Whether the film will be a success or a flop does not depend on its qualities or failures, it depends on whether the public's needs and sensibilities regarding certain ideas and problems are met."
LATE MOON is about Eduard Zahariev's concerns over the moral breakdown which undermines our inner world. It is his last painful cry before death. He mourns the disintegration of our spirits: "Dear fellow human beings, where to? Why? How much longer?..."
Have we lost our ability to listen, lost our sense of empathy?
(Dimitrina Ivanova, Kultura, Sofia, November 1st, 1996)
Eduard Sachariev and I were in the same year at film school in Budapest. He joined us late; the others had already known each other for a few weeks when he arrived from Bulgaria. At first he had to learn the language. The girls helped him gladly so he was able to speak Hungarian very soon. He was a lovely, modest and very honest boy, character traits which he never lost throughout his life. I met him for the last time in the ,Arsenal' cinema in Berlin where his films were shown during a retrospective. He had come from Sofia to give the introduction. I listened to his words, how he addressed his audience and was filled with joy; he hadn't changed at all. He was as modest and charming at fifty as he had been at nineteen.
I was the cameraman for his first film, a graduation film. In one scene he asked me to take the camera from way below and then up high. I crouched, got up, got on a chair, from the chair I stepped on the table - it was one of the most exciting shots of my life. We called it the ,spine crane'.
Even then he smoked a lot, his finger were yellow from tobacco. Doctors say that tobacco killed him. What they didn't know is that he had lived through World War II, absorbing his parent's anxieties in Russian emigration, that he had gone to school in the Stalinist era, that he was in Budapest in 1956, that he had written courageous scripts in difficult years, subsequently banned, that he wasn't allowed to work for years because of censorship, that he never conformed to changing politics throughout the years, that he was stopped short by money politics after the fall of the dictatorship - and yet, perhaps the doctors were correct, and the only awful aspect of his life were the cigarettes.
May Eduard rest in peace, and if there is an afterlife for filmmakers, may he join those he respected and loved, who also left us much too early: Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Paradjanov.
(Istvan Szabo, Budapest, February 1997)
One day last April or May I received a phone call from a friend in Sofia. Edi - as his friends called him - was doing very badly. He was no longer able to get up, he was refusing chemotherapy. He was furthermore convinced that a certain Swiss vegetable juice would improve his health, or at least prolong his life long enough to enable him to finish his last film. A health food store carrying the special brand was searched for and found, regular supplies were flown to Sofia.
A few days before, Edi had finished the rough cut of his film. He told Itzko Fintzi, the lead actor and his best friend that he felt the film had turned out well overall, that his vision had come through: edgy, almost rough, emotional. He felt he was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the path was clear, it wouldn't take much longer...
Like most of Sahariev's work Late Full Moon is without any trace of ,false beauty'. It does indeed seem to be a rough, unhewn film with an edge. In his transitions he never loses himself in superfluous details, but he is very precise and detailed in his scenes. Emotional clarity takes priority over dramaturgical concerns. He stays very close to his main protagonist, an old surly man who has a very difficult time with the aging process and who doesn't understand the new times. It's the last of 14 films of a man whose work I liked very much, with whom I had friendly relations for many years, who, even though he was only a little older than I, was a kind of role model for me, artistically as well as in terms of his personal integrity.
Edi came to Sofia in the early sixties having just graduated from film school in Budapest, eager to start making films, but unfortunately, he had to be patient. In 1962 he made his first documentary Railway in the Sky; three years later he directed his second documentary Salt. Cineasts were impressed with the expressive power of his images, the editing, a precise sense of rhythm, the sense of the filmically poetic. They had discovered an up-and-coming talent!
Soon afterwards, in 1966, Edi made his first feature, If a Train isn't coming; two years later he directed his second feature film Veleka's Sky which caused his first great confrontation with the political regime. Fighting in vain against the powers that be, Edi had to re-edit the film and take out important scenes. He suffered terribly. Although the film was not officially forbidden, its first screening took place in August in a cinema in Sofia, in other words, during summer vacation. There was no advertising, nor were there posters. Due to a lack of public interest, the film was withdrawn a few days later. Five years went by before he was allowed to make his next feature film. In the meantime he directed two documentaries, Steel (1970) and BDJ (Bulgarian State Railway) (1971). Again, critics were impressed, especially by BDJ, commissioned by the Bulgarian Federal Railway. They loved its formal elegance, the structure, the sense of style.
And yet, Edi never thought of himself as a documentary filmmaker, he saw himself as a storyteller with a precise eye for realistic situations and believable characters.
Making only two small films in five years left Edi with a lot of time on his hands to think. Perhaps it was during this time that he found his own voice, a realistic and ironic narrative style, an unspectacular film language without a trace of vanity, never turning into a pose, even during highly emotional moments, a voice which is disciplined, ironic, reserved, never dominating the protagonists, the actors. Years later, Edi used the term ,false beauty' in an interview, condemming it as self-loving, aesthetic nonsense to be avoided at all cost. (...)
Unlike many of his colleagues, Edi avoided the official culture industry of the Socialist Bureaucracy as much as possible, mostly pretending its functionaries didn't exist. He also was not available for commissions and committees. Some of his contemporaries felt that his distance signalled modesty, others suspected cultural elitism. In reality, Edi was a witty, amusing and stimulating partner in conversation, a talented storyteller full of wit and irony.
He remained true to himself after the political changes in 1989/90, once again keeping his own counsel, staying away from politics. He didn't mingle with either the Left nor the Right, least of all with nouveau riche class. Refusing to make a single advertisement film or music video, he remained bitterly poor, but this didn't seem to matter to him. He observed events around him, the changes, his friends and was partly amused and partly worried. Many people had hopelessly fallen out with each other. He had a hard time dealing with the new conditions of filmmaking, couldn't cope with the undignified process of begging money from nouveau riche Mafia bosses or foreign small-time producers. Perhaps he didn't yet have a film idea which justified such a sacrifice.
Retrospectives of his films in the Arsenal in Berlin and in Italy brought him a sense of consolation and hope - perhaps all his efforts had not been for nothing.
Finally, he conceived of the idea for his last film. Edi became very restless. He wanted to make a great film under professional circumstances with an appropriate budget. He started the process of trying to get financing for the film, but he was not successful. On the other hand, it was impossible to reduce the budget without sacrificing quality. So Edi waited.
In the meantime and after a break of twenty years he made a semi-documentary film. Itzko Fintzi, the film's only actor goes to live in an authentic old people's home. The inhabitants are unaware of the camera which is set up to film the everyday life. There is a good scene where a senior citizen tells the newcomer that he looks a lot like the famous actor Itzhak Fintzi. Perhaps this film was a study for the later feature film, which contains an important episode in a senior citizen home.
When Edi had got together little more than half of the originally calculated budget he suddenly decided to begin filming. Today we know why. He didn't talk to anybody about his illness. No one knew about his first therapy. All of a sudden he was in a real hurry. Faster, faster, there was no time left for details, for trivia. The film had to be finished.
The Swiss vegetable juice didn't work miracles. A few weeks after my friend's phone call Edi was dead. He never saw the finished film.
At the end of November I went to Sofia for a few days. Edi's son and a girlfriend wanted to take me to visit his grave. We took a taxi through a grey, dirty town. Because it had rained the streets were muddy and full of pot holes.
Finally we arrived and entered the neglected cemetery. As far as the eye could see there was refuse amongst the graves. Food, plastic bags, bottles, turned over garbage cans. Wild, roaming dogs accompanied us as we searched for the grave. I thought we would never find it but we did: a small wooden pyramid on a mound of earth. His name, date of birth, date of death, that was all. Two colourfully dressed gypsy women were digging in a garbage can nearby. Dusk fell on a very short day, it became foggy. A large waning moon was rising, submerging everything in milky light. The dogs came closer. We took our leave and soon arrived at a large cemetery gate. We entered a tram full of people with grey, emaciated faces. No one looked up, not a smile, not a word. The tram moaned and moaned, screaming like a wounded animal. During my two week stay in Sofia prices for petrol and bread had risen by 20%. People were stony-faced, moving from side to side in the rhythm of the tram. A car full of zombies.
Two days earlier another friend pointed out endless lines of waiting people. Eternally grey, expressionless faces of people waiting patiently to make a petition to have their heating turned off. They could no longer pay their heating bills. My friend was upset. ,What do you know about anything, you people in the West.' Yes, what do we know.
Edi's son, a young physicist named Federico was taking a plane to New Orleans the next day. He had been awarded a two-year fellowship at the University to take a PhD. He was the lucky one.
I was also lucky, my airplane left the same night. There was a Bulgarian newspaper on my seat. I noticed the headline. ,Albania gives humanitarian aid to Bulgaria.' I remembered a joke which a friend had told me. The new motto was: whoever survives the present winter will live to regret it next spring. In that sense Edi made it, too. He no longer has to bear the agony of this country which has been forgotten by God and the world.
(Marin Martschewski, Berlin, February 1997)
Eduard Sachariev was born in Sofia in 1938. He graduated from film school in Budapest in 1961. Eduard Sachariev died on June 26th, 1996. ZAKASNJALO DALNOLUNIE was finished in September.
1962: Wlak w nebeto (Schienen in den Himmel/Railway in the Sky). 1965: Sol (Salz/Salt). 1966: Ako ne dojde wlak (Wenn kein Zug kommt/If a Train isn't Coming). 1968: Nebeto na weleka (Der Himmel über Weleka/Veleka's Sky). 1970: Stomana (Stahl/Steel). 1971: BDJ (BDZH - Bulgarische Staatseisenbahn/Bulgarian State Railways). 1973: Prebroja waneto na diwite sajzi (Die Zählung der wilden Hasen/Counting of the Hares). 1975: Wilna Zona (Gartenparty/A Cottage Area). 1977: Maschki wremena (Männerzeiten/Time for Men). 1980: Potschti ljubowna istorija (Fast eine Liebesgeschichte/Almost A Love Story). 1982: Elegia (Elegie/Elegy). 1985: Skapa moja, skapi moj (Mein lieber Junge, Mein liebes Mädchen/My Darling Boy, My Darling Girl). 1991: Reserwat (Reservation/The Reserve). 1996: ZAKASNJALO PALNOLUNIE.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.