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Glory (II) – Young Critics Workshop

Glory (Slava) (Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov, 2016)

They say no good deed goes unpunished. That’s certainly the case for Tzanko Petrov, a hermitic railway worker in Bulgaria, who decides to turn in a pile of millions of leva he finds on the tracks during work. After being shoved into the limelight by Julia Staikova, the public executive for the Ministry of Transport, he quickly finds his simple life sucked up into the world of bureaucracy.

It’s a simple enough premise that keeps twisting itself around, revealing new treasures and deeper results. While perhaps a bit of the moment, with its fidgety, manic camera movements, intensely holding on to the players as they deal with their tangled web, directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov use the handheld style to find natural humor and character beats within their story. A simple pan out reveals that Margita Gosheva’s busy exec’s phone call is taking place during an ultrasound; the camera calms its jittery nature as Tzanko looks after his pet rabbits.

Stefan Denolyubov smartly plays Tzanko smaller than he could’ve, keeping his reactions close to the vest even as he grows frustrated with more and more people trying to co-opt his 15 minutes. He’s not the easiest profile for civil service—a soft-spoken man with a prominent stutter and no reverence for authority—but in Denolyubov’s hands he’s a compelling subject for the eye of Glory’s hurricane of class anxiety. As he and Julia orbit around each other, it becomes clear that the film isn’t interested in making anyone a straight villain or a straight hero. They may be polar opposites, but there’s something poetic in the way government bureaucracy makes fools of us all.