Glasgow Film Festival 2012: ‘Avé’ is a not entirely engaging road movie

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Written by Arnold Barkus and Konstantin Bojanov
Directed by Konstantin Bojanov
Bulgaria, 2011

Bulgarian film Avé is the fiction feature debut of its director Konstantin Bojanov. A road movie, it is concerned with two hitchhiking youths whose paths collide, leading them to travel together to a small town close to the Romanian border for the wake of the friend of one of them. The boy, Kamen, meets eponymous girl Avé at road side, both intrigued and repelled by her tendency to lie her way in and out of situations. Latching to him despite his attempts to escape her during his journey, she constantly reinvents a new story for their relationship and her past for everyone they meet, when they in fact don’t even know each other’s names. Never warning Kamen of her detours into fiction, she paints the boy as both her brother, her perverted boyfriend, and the grieving relative of a soldier killed in Iraq, while she paints herself as whatever she deems necessary to get ahead or to morbidly satisfy those she encounters.

The film serves as a character piece, the difficult journey allowing the various defense mechanisms of its protagonists to slowly wither. Kamen loses some of his sullen, irritable disposition, while Avé, at least to an extent, becomes more honest and open regarding her life she abhors. Angela Nedialkova and Ovanes Torosian are impressive and convincing as Avé and Kamen respectively. One of the highlights of the film’s atmosphere is the array of unwelcoming, harsh Bulgarian landscapes that the two encounter. The overall mood of the film is not entirely as powerful as those settings. Its slow pace is not an immediate negative, but as the film progresses one is made aware of the very few inventive twists to the road trip formula Avé offers, so its slow nature proves frustrating as we’re left waiting for the clear narrative developments to occur. Furthermore, with the relationship seeming the most important aspect, the bare nature of many of Avé and Kamen’s scenes results in some of the attempts at dramatic potency to flounder.

Avé is not a bad film, but its lack of invention or especially riveting elements, combined with the prolonged delivery of its road movie tropes, mean it is a difficult film to get particularly enthusiastic about. That said, its young leads are especially good despite the underwhelming structural elements, and particular Bulgarian environments featured offer some lasting visuals.

Josh Slater-Williams

This screened as part of the Glasgow Youth Film Festival, directly preceding the main Glasgow Film Festival which begins on February 16th.

Visit the official website of the Glasgow Film Festival.

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