“A Time for Honesty, or
Payback, in time?”
A Brief Commentary and Review of “Glory” (Slava)
This Bulgarian film was Mountain Shadow's montlly selection for July, 2017
Review by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
“Honesty is the best policy.” - Ben Franklin
“Honesty is the best policy - when there is money in it.” - Mark Twain
If honesty is its own reward, the payoff may be hard to measure sometimes. That is, until a full recompense is made for others who try to work both sides of the street between feigned pretense and downright duplicity. That’s the question that’s left up to the viewer to decide in the last few fleeting and startling seconds of Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s Bulgarian film, “Glory.”
Like all plotlines, this one’s “based on a true story;” with a newspaper article the filmmaker’s discovered and subsequently developed into a slow-building, darkly comic tragedy about an honest simpleton who takes it in the shorts. Who says a good deed never goes unpunished? Just wait and see.
A scruffy, reclusive railway worker, whose speech impediment makes it difficult for him to communicate, lives alone with his pet rabbits. His only earthly possession of any meaning or value is a prized family heirloom. It’s his late father’s analog wristwatch that he resets daily. On its face is inscribed the word, “GLORY.”
Like clockwork each morning Tzanko winds his watch, then swings a giant wrench over his shoulder and trudges off down the tracks, checking for loose ties. When he comes upon a treasure trove of cash strewn before him he dutifully turns the would-be fortune in to the proper authorities.
When such simple honesty is deemed an heroic act, the government not only wants to set an example for its citizens, but capitalize on an opportunity to hitchhike on such virtuous behavior. The only problem is the government’s reputation for corruption has already been irrevocably cast. And Tzanko’s other working class stiffs -- who are themselves co-conspirators in a government scandal by pilfering on the side -- think he’s a downright fool for “doing the right thing.”
The ludicrousness of the tale that unfolds is classic theater of the absurd. As exhibit ‘A’ we have Julia, the conniving PR person for government beaucracy, who’ll try to recreate the hero’s journey. “Can’t we get a better looking guy for the cameras?” she asks, before having the public official present Tzanko with a chintzy digital watch in an award ceremony in an effort to raise low approval ratings.
Meanwhile, she’s sparring with her spouse over such a petty inconvenience as her ovulation cycle; as the couple strives to successfully accomplish an in vitro fertilization procedure. The not-too-subtle themes about life, the gifts in life, life’s values and whether honesty and integrity really have any place in this shabby world are all put on trial.
In such an indictment of the lowest forms of human nature, it comes down to a question of conviction, left unanswered in the film’s final seconds.
Who will survive, and who may not?