The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner is a stand-out film on several levels. The story line could be described as simplistic but the richness of its characters and clean cinematography, as directed by Stephan Komandarev, give this movie an attractive warmth—a simplicity that works.
The film stars Carlo Ljubek as Alexander (Sashko) and Miki Manojlovic as Alex’s grandfather, Bai Dan. The opening scene is Sashko’s birth in 1975, followed by a flash forward to today, where Sashko is a young man, riding in a car with his parents.
He sustains a life-altering injury as the automobile crashes. His parents are killed and he is struck with total amnesia, not remembering anything of his life or identity before the accident.
Defying the strict, disinterested and impersonal grip of the medical establishment’s institutional approach to Sashko’s treatment, his grandfather, Bai Dan, takes control of the situation and convinces his grandson to leave the hospital in order to join him in a mission to recover Sashko’s past.
Bai Dan happens to be a renowned backgammon champion, and the game he made for Sashko when he was only seven years old is the touchstone first employed to connect Sashko with his earlier life. The film uses flashbacks of Sashko’s childhood and his family’s dramatic struggle to emigrate from Bulgaria during the waning years of Soviet block domination as vehicles for revealing to Sashko the rich yet difficult odyssey that his life has traveled thus far.
With the expected warmth and gentleness of a grandfather, and a firmness of conviction and wisdom learned, having lived under the spectre of a totalitarian state, Bai Dan takes Sashka under his wing as the two embark on a tandem bicycle journey across Europe, from Germany, back to their roots in Bulgaria.
The film adeptly weaves the young man’s personal journey and struggle within the cultural and historic one that his parents and grandparents ultimately survived. As Sashko’s memories return, the grand story and import of his heritage is artfully portrayed through the story.
Throughout the film, Bai Dan offers a steady hand to both Sashko and the audience, often through his knowledge and life application as a backgammon sage, as he tells his grandson, “life is like the dice in our hands; fate is determined by the skill and luck of the player.”
The simplistic first impression of this film gives way to the realization of a more complex, rich storyline—the hallmark of well crafted cinematic expression. The performances are solid and believable and you are left feeling very good, indeed, at the end of this film. Four out of five stars — you won’t be disappointed!