From Bulgarian writer-director duo Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov comes Slava (Glory), a ferocious satire about state corruption.
Julia, a public relation official at the ministry of transports, must deal with a crisis over an in-house corruption scandal. When a poor and honest state railway worker named Tzanko finds a load of cash on routine checks and turns back the money to the authorities, she seizes the opportunity to use him as a diversion by trying to make him a circumstantial national hero. She soon discovers this simple man (who suffers from stuttering) doesn’t completely fit the bill.
Glory is an effective and cynical drama shot and edited with incisive care. It plays on the paradox between the personalities of its two main characters. Julia, in a way, is an empty speech specialist. She doesn’t have time, she doesn’t take time (her husband must constantly remind her about daily injections for fertility treatments). In spite of himself, Tzanko, with his speech disorder, is time consuming. But when time allows it, his speech, as naive as it can be, becomes far less convenient even when delivered slowly. The communication specialist is confronted by a subject having some slight communication problems.
When asked by the corrupt minister if he has any requests, our celebrated common man wants to know when he and his fellow workers will get paid as they are months over due on their already miserable wages. Ironically it is precisely because of the kind of crimes they try to cover up (with his story of honesty in returning a pile of money) that they don’t get paid in due time. During the official ceremony honoring Tzanko, they even take away the watch given to him by his late father (and they lose it) because the crappy gift award they give him is a brand-new digital one. Doing so, they set in motion an unexpected chain of events. In the aftermath, once everyone took a piece of him, including a reporter who himself is a fraud, Tzanko tries to recover his beloved watch and is confronted to bureaucratic cruelty.
Time and dignity are at the essence of Glory as a metaphor. It refers to Tzanko’s Russian made watch of the Slava (Glory) brand, he is trying to get back. Time is ticking, time is consumed. It is about the temporal. But also relates to Julia’s biological clock running. In this race against time, to each his priority. Julia’s prime concern is to cover for corrupt officials, over her personal life and the dignity of the workers. She preserves the glory of her state department. Tzanko, wants to recover a different type of dignity, the glory that was taken from him.
Glory is a sour and ironic allegory with solid acting performances and sharp dialogue. A great film.
*** Starts Friday in Montreal for very special engagement at Cinema Beaubien (With French Subs).