The second of a trilogy of films based on Bulgarian news stories, Glory features a poor railroad worker who finds a motherlode of cash spilled across the train tracks. When he dutifully reports his find to the police, the glory that should have been his is replaced by mockery and spite. A black comedy that couldn’t get any darker, Glory features outstanding performances from Bulgaria’s leading actors. • Availability: April 12, New York City, Film Forum, and select theaters nationwide. Also available on DVD or streaming from Film Movement . • Thanks to Adam Walker, Film Forum, for arranging this email interview. •
DT: Glory is based on a news story. In what ways did you change the original story to arrive at the final screenplay?
PV: A railway linesman did find a huge pile of cash spilled on the rails, he did return it to the police, and the transport ministry did award him for it with a new watch, which stopped working a few days later. Those are pretty much all of the “real” elements in the film. Everything else—the characters, the conflict, the resolution—is fictional.
DT: Both of your lead actors, Margita Gosheva amd Stefan Denolyubov, have extensive backgrounds in theater as well as film. As directors, how did you take advantage of their experience in the theater?
PV: Stefan and Margita are wonderful actors, very organic, intuitive and most of all self-critical. They put a lot of analysis into everything they do and never cease to explore new territory. Whether they gained these skills from theater or cinema, we don’t really know.
DT: Glory is the second film in a trilogy. Can you talk about the trilogy as a whole and how this fits into it?
PV: The word “trilogy” has a certain weight about it that really makes the whole idea sound much more conceptual than it is. Our basic idea was that these films are inspired by headlines in Bulgarian newspapers that have caught our attention over the years. That’s the unifying principle…plus the theme about the reversal of values and the absurdity of the reality we live in.
DT: This film reverses the roles that Gosheva and Denolyubov played in The Lesson [the first film in the trilogy], where he’s the bad guy and she’s the harrassed worker. Did they intentionally use that while working on this film?
PV: This idea came at a later stage of development. Initially [in Glory] it was supposed to be a male antagonist, but it all sounded quite bland, and then we had one of those “what if” moments when we imagined just how intriguing it would be if we used Stefan and Margita again, but with reversed polarities.
DT: I’m interested in your use of extreme close-ups throughout the film. Was that an aesthetic decision, or did it have a deeper motivation?
PV: We love the close-up because it gives a different scale even to the finest nuances in an actor’s expression. Although it’s mostly typical of the dramatic genre, the use of close-ups in a comic situation gives the scene a more special feel—the combination of drama and comedy.
DT: Denolyubov’s transformation at the end of the film was so radical that I sucked in my breath. How did you go about achieving the power of that moment?
PV: Makeup and camera angle.
KG: We are very grateful to our makeup artist Bistra Ketchedjieva for doing a great job for the scene. About how we got there: we discussed the transformation at length with Stefan. It was very important for us that it’s logical and not just there for the shocker effect. One of the things we did, however, was to keep it secret from Margita, so his transformation was a real surprise for her.
DT: What are the pitfalls and advantages of codirecting?
PV: We’ve been working together since long before Glory, so by now it’s become as natural as breathing. We started to help each other out while we were still students at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. We found it to be so productive that we kept using the formula after graduating. We did a TV film, a documentary and then the short film Jump, which was successful enough to enable us to shoot our feature debut, The Lesson. When we work together, we’re much more confident and brave, and it’s also much more fun. It’s very important to have somebody next to you that both supports and provokes you.
DT: Glory is getting lots of notice internationally, but how was it received in Bulgaria?
PV: The reactions in Bulgaria are overwhelmingly positive—it seems like we managed to strike a chord. However, we still haven’t received feedback from any officials or institutions that might have potentially felt offended by the film.
KG: For better or worse though, this time we decided to distribute the film ourselves and you could say that we did that also on a low budget, just like the production itself. For a number of reasons we’re showing it only in small art-house cinemas, which means that not so many people have seen the film.
Copyright © Director Talk 2017