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Monday, September 18, 2017

GLORY -- DVD Review by Porfle

Sometimes you don't quite know what to make of a movie after you've seen it, and that's one of the things that make it worth watching.  The 2016 Bulgarian drama GLORY (Film Movement) is like that.  The ending doesn't really leave you hanging as much as it makes you feel like you've already been hanging for an hour and half and just landed in an awkward position.

From the start, we're never sure if we're watching a sad comedy or a lighthearted tragedy. Tzanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov) plays a shy, stuttering recluse who walks the train tracks looking for bolts that need tightening.  To say he lives a lean and humble existence is an understatement.  His main concern in life, like that of Lenny in Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", is to make sure his rabbits are well tended.

When Tzanko finds a large amount of cash on the tracks and turns it in, Mrs. Staykova (Margita Gosheva), head of public relations for the Ministry of Transportation, sees it as a great human interest story to offset current scandals of misconduct.  What she doesn't foresee is that Tzanko's unflinching honesty and almost childlike innocence in the face of lies and deceit will bring her and the ministry more trouble than she can imagine.

Both actors are fine in their roles, with Gowsheva bringing particular spark to her portrayal of a woman so caught up in her professional life that she conducts it by phone while her doctor and husband try to get a word in edgewise about the in-vitro egg retrieval procedure they're in the middle of. 

She's all about public image as she herds a confused Tzanko into a joyless ceremony in which the minister gives the new media hero a cheap watch as reward for his honesty.  But first she takes his old watch--a precious heirloom given to him by his father--and, having no thought or concern for its worth to him, promptly loses it.

And such is the hook upon which we'll hang until that final drop.  Tzanko's dogged and seemingly futile attempts to go against a bureaucracy that holds him in little to no regard, just to get back his watch, will eventually become a series of tragic, humiliating, and even life-threatening events for him. 

Denolyubov plays it all with a deadpan puzzlement that only hints at Tzanko's growing indignation.  At first, he's often funny--the incident with the pants  had me thinking GLORY might lean more toward comedy as it went along--but he never plays it that way.  And, until the very end, we're kept guessing just how much the pressure's building up inside him.

The DVD from Film Movement is in 1.85:1 widescreen owith 5.1 stereo sound (Bulgarian owith English subtitles).  Bonus features include trailers and an Academy-award-winning short, "Helium."

Directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov shoot everything in a casual, almost documentary style that rarely betrays the thought that's gone into it.  It's quite effective in keeping us off-guard when the really dramatic stuff starts to happen to both of the main characters.  Tzanko gets pushed to his limit and we're not sure if he'll survive.  Mrs. Staykova, on the other hand, finds a flicker of humanity within her cold exterior, but it may be too late.  GLORY ends on the most awkward note of all and we land with a thud, dazed.


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