THE GOAT HORN

Director: Metodi Andonov
Year: 1971
Country: Bulgaria

For my next entry, I’ve decided to delve into the past again. The Goat Horn is recognised as a classic of Bulgarian cinema. It was chosen as the country’s submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1972, but was not nominated.

The film is set in the 17th century, when Bulgaria was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Karaivan is a shepherd who lives a simple, country life with his wife and daughter. One day, while Karaivan is tending his goats, four Ottoman men break into his house and rape and murder his wife. Grief-stricken and maddened, Karaivan takes his daughter, leaves their home behind and begins a ten year quest for violent revenge against the Ottomans. In terms of plot, The Goat Horn has a lot in common with another entry on this blog – Bolivia’s Ukamau. Both films feature a poor farmer who becomes obsessed with vengeance following the death of his wife at the hands of a colonial aggressor. But while Ukamau‘s storytelling was very stripped-back and minimalist, The Goat Horn adds a few complications to the narrative which, in my view, make it more interesting.

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Karaivan takes his daughter and leaves his farming life behind.

The most obvious is the character of Maria, the daughter. After the tragedy, Karaivan cuts her hair and teaches her the masculine arts of fighting and shooting in order to help him take revenge on the murderers. But Maria is conflicted – she would rather lead a normal life and move on from the past than join her father in his dangerous obsession. This means there’s a complex relationship at the heart of The Goat Horn that Ukamau, with its lone-wolf hero, lacks. Also unlike Ukamau, the vengeful widower is deeply twisted and embittered by his past. And when Karaivan shows his darker side, as he does at several points, Maria provides a figure that the audience can still sympathise with.

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Maria as an adult, in the film’s second half.

 

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