Film Review: January

Winter can be a magical time of year and there’s nothing more atmospheric than a sprinkling of snow. In many places, that light covering becomes something different entirely. In Eastern Europe, snowbound conditions are perfect for traditional folklore and legends to flourish. Rural communities huddled alone in the dark. Listening to new carried on the wind. January uses its setting to full effect.

On the edge of the woods somewhere in rural Bulgaria, two men (Samuel Finzi and Iossif Surchadzhiev) eagerly await the return of Peter Motorov. They didn’t see him leave this morning, just his footprints, but he must be headed into the city. Their only companions are a caged crow and a skittish dog. Others arrive, but their host remains elusive.

January works thanks to its ability to linger in the shadows, just out of reach. You’re never quite sure of context or subtext. Every scene simmer with hidden meaning. Helping create a mystery which is occasionally impenetrable but always enthralling. The state of modern Bulgaria comes under the microscope of Andrey Paounov in his fiction debut. Using allegory and religious imaginary to contemplate clashes between tradition and progression, town and country. All set to a backdrop of monochrome ennui.

January is out in cinemas and on digital on 27 January.

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