The dynamic Bulgarian directing/writing team Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov have collaborated on several projects: short films, TV movies and even a documentary. Their debut feature Urok (The Lesson) brilliantly tests the moral compass of a teacher who tries to teach her students right from wrong all the while dealing with her own demons. Slava (Glory) is the duo’s second in the trilogy, once again providing social commentary on themes that delve into authentic human interactions. It’s even inspired by a real railway worker who in 2001 was awarded a watch after turning in millions that he found on the tracks.
The complexity of the Transport Ministry’s PR maverick Julia Staykova (fiercely portrayed by Margita Gosheva) is revealed through interactions with her husband, at the fertility clinic and at work when she’s making deals, many of which are neither ethical nor legal. She seems to have no qualms about compromising herself or others. Railway worker Tzanko Petrov (subtly brought to life by Stefan Denolyubov) is more of a riddle whose quiet moments with his rabbits, his father’s watch and issues with stuttering portray him as a bit of a loner. His preoccupation with rabbits, believe it or not, recalls Lenny from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
Close-ups on Tzanko, often in profile but also on his hands, are quite effective. Even though he does not say much, the dismay and frustration on his face speaks volumes. The shaky camera slowly meanders as it tracks him, practically mirroring his uncertain movements. This portrayal of Tzanko is completely different from that of Julia as she juggles multiple phone calls at work and at home. She cannot even relax while shopping for groceries. Occasionally, the camera struggles to keep up with her pace because she is always on the move with at least two mobile phones at hand.
The perfect blending of drama and dark comedy makes Glory a film that might not suit all tastes, but those who give it a chance will find it easy to watch; it almost feels too honest. Yet there are still scenes that will make one squirm, and feel uneasy at how people are treating one another. Schadenfreude is one word that comes to mind, especially in relation to an early interview scene. This Grozeka/Valchanov picture owes a great deal to the lead actors, and it provides food for thought.
Glory is released nationwide on 5th January 2018.
Watch the trailer for Glory here: