Waxing Poetic

PROFILE: Theodore Ushev’s ‘The Physics of Sorrow’
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Patrick Mullen
Published date: March 6, 2020
The Physics of Sorrow-featured
All Images Courtesy of NFB

Theodore Ushev calls The Physics of Sorrow his «most personal film to date,» which says a lot since he literally put his own blood into 2015’s Blood Manifesto. «This is the book that I would write if I were a writer,» says Ushev about Georgi Gospodinov’s novel of the same name that inspired the film, which premieres at TIFF and the Ottawa International Animation Festival in September. «It was a book for my whole generation.»

It’s easy to see why the film resonates with the Bulgarian-born, Montreal-based NFB animator. Ushev delivers a thought-provoking parable told in haunting images of encaustic wax painting, a technique from antiquity never attempted before in animation. The film offers melancholic ruminations on life, death, love, home, immigration, legacy, and memory as an unknown soldier, voiced by Xavier Dolan in the French release and Rossif Sutherland in the English version, reflects upon his youth in Bulgaria and his later years in Montreal. The film proves Ushev to be the most exciting animator of his generation.

The film marks Ushev’s second Gospodinov adaptation after Blind Vaysha (2016), a fable about a girl with one eye in the future and one in the past, brought him an overdue


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