GLORY, drama, not rated, in Bulgarian with subtitles, The Screen,
The economically deprived nation of Bulgaria has accomplished something that’s stymied Hollywood for decades. Namely, it has produced a winning team of filmmakers who happen to be husband and wife.
is the second feature film co-directed by the married duo of Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, after the pair began collaborating on shorts and TV documentaries. I can’t think of a single husband-andwife directing team at work in Hollywood today, although the industry doesn’t shy away from co-directors who are brothers — Joel and Ethan Coen, for instance, or Chris and Paul Weitz, or the Farrellys, or the Hughes. Judging from a husband-and-wife teaming can be richer and reveal so much more.
As with the Romanian New Wave of the 2000s, these Bulgarian filmmakers are deeply involved in exposing the trials of a former Soviet-bloc nation undergoing a rough transition toward capitalism. The story, drawn from newspaper headlines, introduces a railroad lineman from the countryside who shocks everyone when he finds a pile of loose currency strewn along the tracks and turns it in. The press has been hounding the transit agency for some time, citing graft and corruption, which gives the agency’s public-relations chief a bright idea: Invite the yokel in and reward him with a new digital watch.
But life is never so simple. Margita Gosheva, who plays the stuffy PR wunderkind Julia, is exceedingly rude and condescending, particularly when she meets the awkward lineman, Tsanko (Stefan Denolyubov), who is so socially inept that he has no friends. His closest companions are pigeons that he raises. Julia has a tough time turning this shy bumbler into a godsend for the agency. Still, with advanced stagecraft, she nearly works a miracle — that is, until she misplaces a prized family heirloom, a watch that Tsanko must remove in order to accept the new timepiece. That pushes him over the edge, so much so that he begins to wage war against the agency, its corrupt leaders, and its petty-thieving employees.
opens as a political parody, but evolves into something more engaging — more of a dark thriller with a strong bite to it. Grozeva and Valchanov also co-wrote the story with Decho Taralezhkov. Valchanov also served as editor, and his work is one of the clear strengths behind this drama. The other asset: having both a man and a woman share the directing. I don’t know if Grozeva did the actress’ scenes, or if Valchanov did those with the lineman, but they have different rhythms that distinctively define these characters and their very separate worlds. The two watches — the old hand-wound piece from Russia and the cheap new digital model — also become marvelous symbols, representing a world that is not quite so grand. — Jon Bowman