Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie with Abe: Glory

Directed by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov
Released September 19 (DVD)

It’s rarely easy to do the right thing in an unexpected situation where a more self-serving choice would provide instant gratification and spare the need for follow-through. Finding a large sum of money that no one else knows exists is among the most literal examples, since taking it would be the simple decision as turning it over does not guarantee a reward, and certainly not one worth the same value. Yet people often have a desire to do what is right, regardless of the outcome, and in many cases their prize for being a good person is far less rich than taking the easy way out would have been.

Tzanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov) works as a railway trackman in Bulgaria, keeping mostly to himself. When he comes across an incredibly large sum, in cash, littered on the tracks, he calls the police to turn it in. Julia Staykova (Margita Gosheva), head of public relations for the transport ministry, decides to use Tzanko’s charitable decision as a publicity stunt, photographing Tzanko receiving a new watch and shaking hands with the minister. Yet the simple act of Tzanko’s family heirloom watch being lost in the process and the minister’s failure to acknowledge Tzanko’s attempts to make the railway more efficient by reporting on maleficence that has led to delayed paychecks leads to poor futures for both Tzanko and the workaholic Julia, who is trying to conceive a baby with her husband in between work phone calls.

This is the story of two people, both of whom live life alone in completely different ways. Tzanko interacts occasionally with those he works with, but he would prefer to stay home with his pet rabbits. He doesn’t care much about his appearance, allowing his beard to grow long and unkempt. Julia is constantly surrounded by people, be it those who report to her at work or her husband, but it never feels as if she is truly in the moment actually experiencing what is going on around her. When their paths cross, she refuses to give him the time of day, ignoring his repeated requests for his father’s watch back and setting in motion Tzanko’s efforts to be heard in a forum where people might be more willing to listen.

This Bulgarian film, which serves as the country’s official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film this year, is not a fast-moving film. Its simple poster evokes memories of “Tell No One” and “Caché,” and its pace is similar to the latter film, pensive and in no rush to get anywhere, covering the banality of everyday life with few rewards for good behavior or proper decorum. This film serves as a strong commentary on what it means to be good in society, and what happens when no one cares to ask questions or listen to the answers. For those seeking a thriller with clear-cut developments and consequences to actions, this film may not be a great fit. For a more pensive look at ordinary people whose lives are transformed by one choice, this thoughtful drama should prove insightful.


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