«Last «Dear Bulgaria» is a free interpretation of Mikhail Zoshchenko's long-suffering autobiographical novel Before Sunrise (1943), directed by Alexey Fedorchenko.
«Dear Bulgaria» in the title of the film is the name of a variety of apple which the protagonist Leonid Etz grew in Alma-Ata in 1943. Along the way, he investigates the disappearance of writer Semyon Kurochkin. Leonid finds his diaries and through them tries to understand what happened to the famous writer. At the same time, he tries to save the last seeds of a unique apple variety. The film is about Leonid and Semyon, a gripping detective story and a mosaic biography, a reflection on the nature of his depression and the oppression of an entire generation, which has been through a chain of upheavals: World War I, the Civil War, the Revolution and the Patriotic War. The director uses unusual ways of differentiating these two stories. The story set in Alma-Ata has vivid colours and regular frame composition. Semyon's line, since it's still a flashback, has much paler colours - but how freely the director handles the frame space there! We see the scene from three or more angles at once, which gives the action a certain decorative and theatrical quality. This technique loads the viewer, and at first, the eyes are diverted and can not assemble the picture into something whole, but then this vision captivates, especially because the "tension" skillfully alternates with the usual building blocks of Leonid's life.
The two lines of the film move in opposite directions. We don't just watch Leonid from his birth, we even know how his parents met. The story of his time in military Alma-Ata unfolds unhurriedly, sequentially. Leonid meets a director who is making a film about Ivan the Terrible (of course, there is a reference to Sergei Eisenstein behind this image). At one point, the film's reedy setting becomes the setting for Kurochkin's memories. It goes in the opposite direction. Though Leonid investigates the story of Semyon's 'disappearance', it is obvious that he is dead. The task of the protagonist is to understand how he died. In the course of reading the diaries, the question "how" turns into "why", because the diaries go in reverse order, and in the course of them the cause becomes the effect. In this way, Leonid understands the origins of Semyon's depression and learns new things about himself. And the viewer, comparing the two characters, draws a conclusion from "a study of melancholy, not only of Zoshchenko but of an entire generation of the intelligentsia of the time," as the director calls his film.
It should be noted that this film is the only one from Russia in the main programme of the MIFF. And it's good that our cinema is presented with a film of a level so high that one wants to revisit it in order to find new meanings and new facets.