So on with the second day of the EIFF.
Sofia’s Last Ambulance follows a Bulgarian ambulance crew around while operating under inefficient bureaucracy and being underpaid.
The three people of the story are
- Mila Mikhailova – Doctor and apparently Sofia’s only skilled resuscitation
- Krassimir Yordanov – Doctor and possible medium
- Plamen Slavkov – Ambulance Driver and former taxi driver
Trying to respond to calls (when the system doesn’t crash) and get to the patients so they can save lives while still trying to feel any empathy towards the role they do.
The filming focuses entirely on the three heroes with a lot of close up shots on them and very rarely leaves the interior of the ambulance except to go to someone’s house. The patients they deal with are never in focus and are heard off camera either or in laboured breathing.
There is no introduction on what the service is like so in order for the viewer to get the state that the service is in it is told only through the conversations that the heroes have, the off camera dispatchers and patients comments, the sound of going over potholes while trying to put a split on a patient’s leg.
Even though the film was shot over two years, there isn’t any sense of time as the crew go through the duties nor have the scenes that were edited have been presented chronologically. This is most notable by looking at Plamen’s hair where it long then short then back to long again.
There are signs that the heroes were partially aware that they were being filmed through how their hair looked in the film which gave the feeling that it was a little staged. Yet there was nothing pretentious about the work they do as they never look directly at the camera while giving understanding to the patients and their families.
Given that the camera work is mainly close up of the crew, it is disappointing that there isn’t any full shots of the film’s fourth character which would be the ambulance itself.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
The film encourages the viewer to engage with the film given its choice of camera focus and off-camera audio.
Though, there is some information at the start and end that maybe should have been added in the film to help the viewer get a better understanding of the service. Especially as the film apparently has had a positive impact to get ambulance crews an 18% pay rise and make improvements to the services on response times.
Are they driving backwards?!?
One last thing, with the close up shots of them sitting at the front of the ambulance there is an impression that at times that they looked like they were driving backwards. This is where the street lamps appear to be going in the wrong direction, yet it was a trick cause by the back panel behind the driver’s seat.
Personally, quite liked this as it felt like an unconscious message on the direction on where the service was heading.