Viktoria is definitely one of my favourite film on this year’s London Film Festival. It is lyrical, ambitious and important film covering the period of communism and early post-communism in Bulgaria and following the three generations of women, Boryana, her mother and her daughter, Viktoria.
Boryana doesn’t want to bring a baby to communistic Bulgaria, but she gets pregnant and gives birth to Viktoria, a baby born without umbilical chord. The baby is given the title of Socialist Baby of the Decade and the head of the state becomes her Godfather. We follow Viktoria as she lives a spoilt life as a symbol of communism- a human born without a connection to their past, who represents only future. Viktoria isn’t what communist party hopes to stand for. She is lazy and selfish and seems to have little respect for anyone and anything around her. We see her becoming distant from Boryana, who never seemed to have a maternal instict in the first place- a link to her own mother, with whom she never built a relationship until Viktoria was born. But the utopia ends for Viktoria with the end of communism and we see the women get closer due to the new situation they find themselves in.
Viktoria is a beautiful film filled with shots that like paintings, are simply stunning. There is a lot of symbolism, but so subtle that our enjoyment of the story at its simplest isn’t disturbed. Emotions of the characters are represented through stunning dreamlike images, something of a ghostly versions of Frida Kahlo paintings. Some of them are really disturbing, especially at the beginning of the film as we follow Boryana’s pregnancy.
The film is long. It is almost three hours and yet the large timescale and the many aspects covered keeps us at the edge of the screen. It unravels its meanings slowly and the editing hypnotises. It is a powerful commentary on the modern post-communistic countries and Maya Vitkova is brave and eloquent in showing her views through the stories told. But the real treat of the film is Irmena Chichikova, who plays Boryana. She is simply stunning and her performance consistently amazing. She steals every scene she’s in saying very little and showing no dramatic empotions. She is the quintessence of what the atmosphere of the whole film is. I am in love.
Every twenty minutes a new tension is brought and our attention driven to a new aspect of life in a communistic and post-communistic country. It covers all of them in respectable time. Immigrating to a different country, fascination with the western culture, the absurdities of communism. These are the stories I heard from my parents and they become alive in Vitkova’s film.
Viktoria is magical, quiet and beautifully told. It offers us a rage of strong female characters during historically important events. But it also focuses on the individuals, their relationships with each other to finaly conclude itself with a powerful statement of love and care. Maya Vitkova is the name you should remember.