Jonah Simanjuntak over Glory
Al drie jaar op een rij organiseert Film Fest Gent samen met filmtijdschrift Photogénie de Young Critics workshop, een korte, maar intensieve schrijversresidentie waarin aanstormende filmcritici (tussen 18 – 26 jaar oud) de kans krijgen verslag te doen van het filmfestival. Met een kritische blik volgen ze de films in de officiele competitie, om op de website van Photogénie en FFGent hun scherpe meningen neer te pennen. Het vijftal wordt begeleid door het team van Photogénie en Nick Pinkerton, freelance journalist (o.a. Sight & Sound). De Young Critics zijn een internationaal gezelschap en schrijven hun artikelen in het Engels. Hier lees je de recensie van Jonah Simanjuntak over Glory.
Imagine this. In the middle of nowhere and without a soul in sight, you are walking by the railroad tracks, when you suddenly stumble upon thousands of Euros in unmarked bills. What would you do?
That is the question stutter-stricken railway worker Tzanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov) has to answer in Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s delightful, yet slightly infuriating ‘Glory’, or ‘Slava’. Honest man that he is, Tzanko turns the money in to the Bulgarian authorities in an attempt to return to his slow-paced life with only his rabbits as company. He cannot do so, however, before being dragged into a marketing strategy to clear the Ministry of Transport’s name after a corruption case, conceived by Julia Staikova (Margita Gosheva), the ministry’s head of PR. The ambitious Julia, the complete opposite of Tzanko, knows exactly what she wants from life, except when it comes to motherhood, something she is enduring hormone therapy for.
Contrast is the center of the narrative in this black comedy on class relations. While the minister dismisses Tzanko’s complaint about not getting paid, or tells him that now is not the time to address the issue of stolen gasoline by government employees, Julia is standing in her office with her pants down and a flag wrapped around her waist in order to get her daily hormone shot. When saint Tzanko calls Julia’s office to reclaim his family heirloom watch, the titular Glory, robbed off of him for the sake of propaganda, Julia shoves her responsibilities over the mess she created on to her subjects, because she believes she deserves to take the day off too.
Grozeva and Valchanov’s naturalistic style of filmmaking has been compared with the Dardennes’ movies before, the lack of a score and the grainy, handheld cinematography being the most obvious elements to spot. As far as plot goes, both director duos are interested in a deterministic view on social issues, but the way in which they approach these are vastly different. Where there rarely is any humor in the Dardennes’ films, much of what makes ‘Glory’ so enjoyable comes from the frankly hilarious situations, taken from real life, which characters get wrapped up in. Finding oneself pants down in an office is a recurring theme in the film, for example.
Rather than focusing on just the lower classes, ‘Glory’ juxtaposes them to the high classes. It works particularly well, because both of the central characters have respectable motivations for their actions. Denolyubov’s brings a welcome reserve and calmness to the good Samaritan character, while Gosheva’s electrifying screen presence, sharp and confident at work, but hesitant at home, adds depth to the success-hungry antagonist.
Glory offers exactly what you would expect from a Bulgarian comedy of manners of some sort. It offers some lessons about being honest and considerable without coming off as a lecture. It delves into the theme of corruption, which to this day seems to be hard to get rid of in Eastern Europe, yet rarely does it become too dark or depressing.
Just one last word of advice: if you ever find a ton of money, be very careful in considering what to do with it.