Every year in the month of March, the Gene Siskel Film Center hosts the Chicago European Union Film Festival. I’ll give capsule reviews of as many of the films as I can. All films are shown at the Film Center, 164 N. State Street, right across State St. from the Chicago Theater. See you there!
Godless (Bezbog) (Bulgaria, 2016) is a bleak but rewarding first feature from director Ralitza Petrova. The film follows Gana (Irena Ivanova), a sullen and stone-faced caregiver for the elderly who’s been drawn into the casual corruption that seems to be endemic in many a small Eastern-European city. As well as pilfering drugs for her own recreational self-medication, she steals the state ID cards of her more addled patients, which are then used to create phantom corporations for money laundering, an enterprise administered by the very police investigators who are assigned to prevent it. If things become bothersome, the marks are arrested. If there’s further trouble, “accidents” are arranged. Just another cog in a generational wheel of criminal self-interest, Gana starts to long for her own capacity to love and be loved, and, inspired by one of her clients, a cranky choir director who had spent time as a political prisoner years ago, she starts to construct a way to extract herself from her situation. The film is lifted by the search for self-esteem and the possibility for redemption, but Petrova knows there’s no happy ending here, or even a conclusive one. Cinematographers Krum Rodriguez and Chayse Irvin throw some real visual sophistication into the usual air of grainy gray glumness that many of these films fall into. It’s kind of a hard watch at times, but it’s well worth the trouble. Recommended.
“Godless” will be shown on Sunday, March 19th at 5:15 pm and Thursday, March 23rd at 8:15 pm.