|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
Angel Wagenstein’s last film, AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD (1996) is a tender evocation of his childhood in Plovdiv. Set immediately in the years 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 Communist rule in Bulgaria, 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.
The film script started out as a novel but then became a screenplay. AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD was a turning point for Wagenstein. After this final Fellini-esque tragicomedy, he became a novelist: the film was a final gaze back before moving on.
The recurring character of a young 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.’” Angel Wagenstein