|Ca. 1348||1492||OCT 17 1922||1923||1940 - 1944|
|Plovdiv: After the end of the World|
Angel Wagenstein, Plovdiv, 1925
“When I was a child, Plovdiv was home to Bulgarians, Turks, Jews, Greeks, Albanians, Armenians, Gypsies and Tatars. We were in the Sephardic community here. My grandmother never learned Bulgarian: five hundred years wasn’t long enough. She spoke Ladino and she died with Ladino.”
Angel Wagenstein’s last film, AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD (1996), is a tender evocation of his childhood in Plovdiv. Set in the years immediately after World War II, it conjures up an idyllic dream-world of children from varied backgrounds playing, loving, fighting and dancing together in a kind of multi-cultural paradise.
In a series of flashbacks, Wagenstein’s script portrays the early, idealistic stages of Bulgarian Communist rule, which he initially supported. As the plot progresses, we see Muslim and Roma communities harshly repressed; images of Stalin come to dominate the visual landscape, and the eccentricity and specificity of individual characters are crushed. The tone is bittersweet: one feels the sense of loss as Wagenstein looks back to his own youthful dream of a Socialist utopia with passionate regret.
AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD was a turning point for Wagenstein. After this final Fellini-esque tragicomedy, he stopped writing scripts, and turned to fiction: the film was a final gaze back before moving on.
The recurring character of a photographer who lovingly documents the communal rituals and encounters of everyday life in this little corner of the world is perhaps a stand-in for Wagenstein himself, the chronicler of lost innocence and lost causes.
“As the Jewish proverb says: ‘So much time has passed since then that the wind has dried our tears from the Wailing Wall … but the salt remains.’”