The present review departs from the last line of Neva Micheva’s review on “Glory”, namely her question what happens with storytelling once the living has evolved into doom. The answer depends on the point of view since it is equally true to say that good storytelling rescues from the feeling of doomed living but in the same time the critical stances about “society” never reach a subject called society. They are perceived only by those that are already aware of what is going on and the rest that are not aware or don’t want the others to be aware that they are aware, are usually resistant to cinema.
Regarding the storytelling, “Glory” is fortunately a step ahead compared to “A Lesson” because we couldn’t have known whether it was simply a question of budget or “A Lesson”’s minimalism was the limit of the duo’s narrative and aesthetic dreams. The complicated story involving two parallel but intertwined lines – the one of Tsanko Petrov (Stefan Denoliubov), a linesman, and the one of Julia Staykova (Margita Gosheva), a PR, is presented almost flawlessly, with a dramaturgical confidence, urbanistic sense to locations and nuanced characters – although, concerning the latter, there are a few artificial touches – for example, when adding a prostitute to the story, so that the linesman is not perceived entirely as a saint, or the banal symbolic contrasts – the PR ruins a life, while in the same time awaiting the birth of a child and her will is in the center of both.
The challenging construction of the film faces the directors with many high risk decisions but as a result of their bravery, even the people who don’t agree with certain ethical positions (for example, about the final scene) wouldn’t deny that the whole movie is not only watchable but enthralling. This enthrallment is not only a feature but a distinctive merit of the movie, thus coping with the two barriers of “A Lesson” – the first of which being the Valtchanov and Grozeva’s desire to provide a message through their characters, typifying them beyond their individual traits or putting them in situations where the directors’ statement is evident. The final scenes of both movies can be compared in this regard – there can be a lengthy discussion whether “Glory”’s ending arrives naturally in light of the whole logic of the movie but it can represent one possible but not necessary choice by the authors.
The second challenge is the feeling of hopelessness, as giant as capable of crumbling the grounds of the movie since the directors themselves state that their movies are not aiming at repeating the newspaper headlines but going beyond them, in the troubled waters of human psyche. “Glory”’s characters are not caught in the moralistic labels which they seemingly represent but manage to surprise themselves when involved in the game of chance. There is no central issue whose resolution is awaiting an hour and a half but an event accidentally leads to another and this rhythm is way closer to life. This effect is due not only to the presence of the cast (for which there haven’t been any doubts whatsoever) but also due to the walk along different genres and few really successful comical episodes, on the verge of the caricature but still holding to the particular feeling of the movie. Thus, the horror of the well-known Bulgarian reality overtakes in such an efficient way, as if laughing at the captured state has provided a cure just for a few minutes, before the final third of “Glory”.
On the other hand, without refuting any of the above, a parallel point of view arises – the one of the audience for which а well told story is not sufficient. If we accept that whimpering doesn’t help and the things have not become better just because of discussing them, where is the place of “Glory”? Of course, it is always possible to say that a therapy of reminding is useful, so that we can all huddle up under the umbrella of truth but I suspect that Peter Valtchanov and Kristina Grozeva are striving for more.
It is paradoxical that Dardenne brothers, with whom the Bulgarian duo is often compared, made their most straightforward realistic movie “Two Days, One Night” precisely at a moment when Europe is facing its most serious problems for a long time. And despite Dardenne’s increasing intellectual influence it seems that now it is the least possible to solve these problems. The conclusion is that when socially sensitive cinema has more topics at its disposal, it becomes less and less necessary because after all cinema can have a social role but it is not the one presupposing it. The specific Bulgarian case could amount to a certain festival success in the near future but that would also run dry. What is most exciting in “Glory” are the moments when citizens are not exactly citizens but humans and the vehicle of the story is not the social but the psychological context. It would be laughter and nothing else that could save Peter Valtchanov and Kristina Grozeva’s third feature film.