Glory (2016) directed by Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov is so bleak that it almost can’t be labelled as a comedy, even a dark comedy. Almost.
There’s no gore, no sex, and barely a swear word – fairly unique for a dark comedy. So, where does the ‘dark’ come in?
Filmed on a hand-held camera and staying uncomfortably near to the characters, almost every frame is claustrophobic. This stuffiness – along with the burnt, glaring aesthetic – works to convey the pervasive Bulgarian heat, staying close as the protagonists wipe their sweating brows and armpits.
This intimacy and naturalism captures the nuanced, thoughtful performances from the entire cast. Stefan Denolyubov and Margita Gosheva deliver particularly impressive performances and, coupled with the shaky-cam style and seamless editing, these characters are made utterly believable.
Denolyubov does an astounding job as railway worker, Tzanko, who stumbles upon a pile of cash beside the rails and decides to hand it in.
This is a humble, quiet man; all Tzanko cares about is the watch his father gave him and his pet rabbits. And yet, after hailing him a hero and exploiting his good deed for spin, the ministry of transport manages to turn his life upside down.
Gosheva plays Julia, a public relations officer in the ministry. She’s a workaholic and her main problem is juggling the job with fertility treatment and a disgruntled husband.
It’s the juxtaposition of these character’s lives that breeds the darkness, slowly seeping into the film as the tensions rise. Julia doesn’t care about Tzanko’s seemingly insignificant problems. She and her colleagues feel superior to him, laughing at his severe speech impediment and clumsiness, calling him a ‘retard.’
Julia is not a complete villain and she does feel a pinch of guilt, but when Tzanko takes action she retaliates, happy to let her ambition ruin a man’s life.
The film is dark because of it’s cynical treatment of humanity, exploring how even a good deed can spiral into disaster.
So, where does the humour come in?
The film is hilarious; but it’s very subtle, tragic, and incredibly cruel humour. We are made to laugh at Tzanko’s fumbling ungainliness and even his stammer. In these moments, the filmmakers point towards the viewers hypocrisy: we cringe at his behaviour, but simultaneously loathe the characters who humiliate him.
Every time something goes wrong for Tzanko or Julia, the viewer feels one step ahead, nervously anticipating events as they unfold. You could argue that this makes the film predictable, but it enables the tension to build in every scene which bubbles to an unexpected, rage- fuelled climax.
Reminiscent of Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It, this cutting political satire explores the greed that comes with life in the public eye.
This low budget, unsensational film leaves you grinning for all the wrong reasons.
Glory is screening at Glasgow Film Theatre between the 5th of February – 8th of February. Anyone aged between 15 and 25 can get a free card from GFT that entitles them to £5.50 tickets to any standard screening.
By Emily Black