RIFF Review: Sofia’s Last Ambulance
In the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, there are 13 ambulances to service the 2 million inhabitants.
Sofia’s Last Ambulance, a documentary by Ilian Metev, follows one such ambulance and its crew. From there the film is constructed in such a way that most of it is shot from static cameras mounted on the dashboard pointed at each of the three medical officers. Then when they take a call and go to the scene of an emergency it goes handheld and only the doctors are ever completely in frame. This sounds intriguing on paper but is horribly botched in execution.
There seems to be a stunning lack of care given to the filmmaking. The static cameras are set to the same level of focus the whole time, meaning that the crew’s faces are often out of focus. Those same cameras are also terrible in low light conditions, making half of the film look awful. For the handheld segments, in a stunning move of unprofessionalism, the auto focus has been left on. It just feels haphazard for no real reason. As far as the editing goes it’s just as randomly slapped together, except for a couple of shots where they leave the camera rolling for way too long, pointed at nothing. These shots feel so pretentious that it’s practically insulting.
The dialogue consists completely of non-sequiturs and the film never gives us a sense of the trio as people beyond the very surface level. At the end they’ve changed but you don’t see it; it’s more of a step. They selfishly stop to pick some fruit from a tree and after that, in the last ten or so minutes, they’ve suddenly lost faith in humanity. It comes completely out of nowhere, seemingly happening because the film’s description says it might. Not the best way to portray these people as frustration overpowers any other feeling you might have towards the subject material.
It truly adds nothing, feeling completely pointless. The ambulance and medical system in Sofia is shit. That’s the one and only point the film makes and it does so almost immediately before just meandering around for the rest of the run time. Therefore you’re left with a 75 minute film that feels like it’s 3 hours long, as you painfully wait for it to end.
Final Verdict: The crew of the ambulance stare disillusioned into the audience for large chunks of the film. If the audience were conscious they might echo the sentiment. Sofia’s Last Ambulance is a film that makes its point right away and then does nothing but waste your time and a good film making base concept. Forgettable and dull, removing all power from its message.