by Lawrence Garcia Film

3/4 | Ilian Metev

March 21, 2018

Ilian Metev’s 3/4 opens with a plastic bottle skidding across the sunlit pavement of a schoolyard. A group of young boys bob in and out of the frame, shouting “Shakira,” followed by an action (e.g. “lie down”) as they kick the bottle back and forth. That brief sequence alone illustrates what’s so impressive about the Bulgarian director’s debut: minimal information (why Shakira?), sharp editing cadences, meticulous soundscapes, and (most importantly) a precise use of offscreen space. Like Ramon Zürcher’s The Strange Little Cat, this is an intimate (almost cloistered) family drama that continually gestures to what lies beyond the frame.

Although Metev focuses on a family of three—Mila (Mila Mikhova), a teenaged girl preparing for an important piano audition; Niki (Nikolay Mashalov), her rambunctious younger brother; and Todor (Todor Velchev), her aloof father—3/4 doesn’t feel “small.” (The mother’s briefly mentioned absence, for example, is felt throughout.) Befitting the incompleteness suggested by its title, Metev’s film is a beguiling experiment in isolation and negative space, an attempt to find the “infinite” in absence. “We have to catch the same rhythm,” Mila tells Niki at the close—and by then, we’re fully attuned to Metev’s own.

Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2018 | Dispatch 1.