Glory

 

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A film critical of the powers that be in Bulgaria but one that can’t find a consistent style.

    

Glory

 

This is a film which has been variously described as a drama, a satire and a black comedy. It is, indeed, something of all three, but to my mind that confirms my own impression that, as written by the film’s directors Kristina Gosheva and Peter Valchanov in collaboration with Decho Taralezhkov, Glory operates in too many conflicting registers to work effectively. Those who take gear changes in their stride may well disagree since it is competently acted and we get all too few chances to view films set in Bulgaria where this one takes place.

 

A neat opening scene introduces us to a railway employee, the linesman Tsanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov), and to a much prized possession of his, the watch which he has inherited from his father and which is known as a Glory. This watch will pay a significant role in the tale that is to unfold when this naive but honest loner hands in to the authorities money that he finds spread all over the track. Julia Staykova (Margita Gosheva) is the head PR for the Transport Ministry and decides to build up the story of this loyal railman as a counter to recent undesirable publicity of corrupt practices said to have been approved by the Ministry.

 

Leave aside some early distracting hand-held camera work and Glory starts off well enough as a satire of bureaucratic incompetence reminiscent of 1960s cinema from countries such as Czechoslovakia. It could be sharper and more detailed, but it is quietly droll even if it devotes too much time to a subplot about Julia and her husband (Kitodar Todorov) trying for a baby, scenes that being stretched out seem rather out of place. But, as the tale develops, and Tsanko, who suffers from a speech impediment, looks set to be unable to get back the treasured watch which Julia has briefly removed and then lost, the tone moves nearer to tragicomedy. It darkens even further when Julia has Tsanko framed as a thief in order to bring pressure to bear on him to recant statements that he has made critical of the Ministry.

 

Indeed, Julia, who had seemed like a cog in a machine ready to let her work override her private life, emerges now as so ruthless that her later contrition appears unconvincing. At this late stage, a story that had come across less as a slice of realism than as a satire on a believably Kafkaesque society concludes unexpectedly in tragic mode - or do I mean in a tone of the blackest black comedy? Either way, the film’s failure to find a coherent style means that we don’t feel any real impact at the close.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Stefan Denolyubov, Margita Gosheva, Kitodar Todorov, Ivan Sanov, Milko Lazarov, Mira Iskarova, Hristofor Nedkov.

 

Dir Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov, Pro Kristina Grozeva, Peter Valchanov, Konstantina Stavrianou, Screenplay Kristina Grozeva, Peter Valchanov and Decho Taralezhkov, Ph Krum Rodriguez, Art Dir Vanina Geleva, Ed Peter Valchanov, Music Hristo Namliev, Costumes Kristina Tomova.

 

Abraxus Film/Graal Films/Screening Emotions/Aporia Filmworks/Red Carpet-New Wave Films.
101 mins. Bulgaria/Greece. 2016. Rel: 5 January 2018. Cert. 12A.