The Good Side of the Misery

in 54th Gijón International Film Festival

by Pablo Garcia Conde

In some moments of Glory (Slava), the FIPRESCI winner in the 54th edition of the Gijón IFF, the subtlety is almost absent: the bad guys are really hateful and it is difficult not to feel sorry for the protagonist. Its intention, therefore, is clear in a film that tries to show the high level of moral misery of the society, from the top of the social pyramid to the bottom.

Our little great hero, Tsanko, is a poor railway worker that suffers from stutter and emits humbleness and good intentions. And his antagonist, Julia, a woman that works directly for a minister, is selfish, evil and uses his husband to her own achievements. One day, the man finds a lot of money near the tracks where he usually works, and decides to call the police. The minister and his team, in an attempt to clean its image, decide to award him in a public event. The storyline advances when the woman takes his watch since he is going to be recompensed with a new digital one. As she will lose it, the worker will not stop struggling until recovering it.

But even that lack of subtlety we talked about has its own raison d’être. Obviously, this film has to be understood as a caricature of a society, in particular the Bulgaria of the directors that are behind this feature film: KristinaGrozeva and PetarValchanov. This is the second time they make a movie together, after the successful The lesson, another social portrait of their country.

Not without a good reason the film adopts the name of the watch thatTsanko tries to get back. Where can the glory be found in a corrupted society, where the only things that matter are the money, the standing and keeping a good image (although fake) with regard to the public opinion? Or is it the glory hidden in those little but important things, as we see in Tsanko’s aspirations?

In any case, this caricaturing of the characters and the situations works perfectly in both sides. The stutterer man, in a great scene, is interviewed by the television, and then is when they (and we) realize of his disorder. He will be the laughingstock of his colleagues for not keeping the money himself, he will be used by a journalist to discover hidden information and alsoused by the ministry of transit to improve its public appearance. On the other hand, Julia does anything necessary to clean that image, she’s stuck to the phone non-stop giving instructions, wants to have a baby but forgets to follow the doctor’s prescriptions, doesn’t hear his husband…

Does it sound exaggerated? Not if the aim is to transmit from a comic perspective a certain personality of the people and the institutions that represent them, in a story settled in an excellentscript. The narration advances fluently thanks to those details that appear not by chance: tons of notes spread in the trucks, something said to the minister, some polemic declarations in TV, a watch stolen, a digital watch that doesn’t accomplish its function, some uncomfortable calls and even the use of a European Union flag to cover the woman’s body while undressing… This is, without a doubt, one of the most sarcastic scenes in a movie with a strong message to tell. And if somebody feels uncomfortable, maybe that’s because the film has achieved it.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson