Tribeca Film Festival 2014: ‘Love and Engineering’ a funny, heartfelt documentary

Love and Engineering

Directed by Tonislav Hristov

Finland, Germany, and Bulgaria, 2014

The apartments of the four main subjects of Tonislav Hristov’s documentary Love and Engineering are illuminating. Literally. Each Finnish flat glows with at least three computer and TV screens, always displaying a video game. Hristov’s question is age-old – can love be calculated? – but the approach is entirely 21st-century. Engineer Atanas Boev uses formulas, mechanically-inclined metaphors, and scientific studies to help find his hapless friends love.

Both nerd-funny and heartfelt, Love and Engineering cracks plenty of jokes but never mocks its subjects. At the heart of the narrative is Todor Vlaev, the most outgoing and stylish of the geek group, but also, perhaps, the most susceptible to the perils of infatuation and dating. Hristov captures Todor in disparate states of dreamy elation and absolute despondence and the young man feels realer than an internet profile might suggest.

Hristov spends much of the film training his cameras on the various exercises that Atanas leads his faithful flock in – blind dates with real-time, earpiece-advice from the “master”; anonymous smell tests; brain wave analyses; good old-fashioned clubbing – all with the purpose of “hacking the system,” or, plainly, winning the girl via a pre-planned strategy.

There’s enough irony, self-deprecation, and wry humor to make Love and Engineering both a parody of modern, online dating and a tender look into several lonely lives. Atanas comes off as ridiculous at times – the master magician who’s never had a real gig – but his earnestness and sense of genuine camaraderie make him a sympathetic general, humorously prodding his beleaguered troops into romantic battle.

— Neal Dhand

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