Silence in film acting is a potent thing. Often they are capable of conveying bright shooting angles of thought than entire reams of dialogue. But they also demand an actor who is sure in his skin and has a sound understanding of all the bodily tools he has at his disposal. The performance should be spare, and the subduedness of it only adds to the stifling weight his character may have to bear. Such an actor should know then where and how to draw out the maximum power when he does mutter his lines.

All such gifts are on abundant display in the lead performance of eminent rapper Ognyan Pavlov/ Fyre, making a subtle, emotionally effective debut in the formally accomplished “Windless,” which is directed by Pavel G. Vesnakov. Pavlov and Vesnakov are in brilliant synergy in this film, which is an unlikely but remarkably successful match of material and an artist such as the former. They take you into an internal state with conviction, thematic coherence, and unflinching truth.

Pavlov plays Kaloyan, a man returning to his native Bulgarian village when called on to arrange for the sale of his late father’s house. To say that Pavlov has a fractious, aloof relationship with his home and father would be to understate it. He left his home years ago, moving abroad to Spain where work pays him more than what he’d ever get had he stayed back.

In the village he comes from, there’s little to elevate life’s prospects. There has been a stasis for a long period, but it is now being shoved over as its mayor seeks to push through a raft of redevelopment projects that purport to fully alter the village’s nature and shape. There is promise of a flush of new businesses creeping up and employment opportunities opening up. But it also comes with its own costs.

Windless (2024) ‘Karlovy Vary’ Movie Review
A still from “Windless” (2024)

To usher in growth and progress, homes are being razed over so that swanky golf courses and casinos can take their place. It’s a huge moment of precarity and upheaval, with stakes for everyone, even if the responses are individual and varied. It is this maelstrom of reckoning that amps up Kaloyan’s recalibrated understanding of his roots and specifically his father’s generation and such ilk, whose ways of parenting were overbearing. Kaloyan knew he couldn’t live and thrive in such an atmosphere where love was withheld to perpetuate some sort of iron-fisted discipline in children so that they could steer their lives confidently with due time.

Kaloyan didn’t even return home to attend the funeral of his father. It has been a year since he last spoke to him. His mother also barely kept in touch. The family had drifted apart long before the father’s death. When Kaloyan is asked for the details of his father and grandfather, whose remains will be shifted since the old cemetery will be mowed over to make way for the golf course, he shrugs in indifference and tries to entirely remove himself from any sense of responsibility. However, he is not quite able to put it all aside, especially as relatives, neighbors, and strangers dole around their memories of his father and hint at the loneliness he might have experienced before he passed away.

In still, measured long takes, without the camera even moving for several minutes, Vesnakov foregrounds a sense of decay, obsolescence that’s washing over the old and the infirm as Kaloyan goes about helping them trundle out stuff for the revamping to settle into place, the disposability they feel gripped by in the wake of newness that may just erode their existence. There’s a devastating scene when a long-suffering woman requests Kaloyan and his friend not to hospitalize her and let her surrender to death. She doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone.

Greatly aided by DP Orlin Ruevski’s cramped frames, the melancholy of “Windless” subtly and quietly inches itself under your skin. The past isn’t quite as escapable as Kaloyan may have thought. But there is a sliver of grace and reconciliation to be found in his gradual embrace of all that he has ducked, from his memories to his roots.

Windless premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2024.

Windless (2024) Movie Link: IMDb

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