TIFF Review: 'Gloria Victoria'

Gloria Victoria
(Canada, 7 min.)
Dir. Theodore Ushev
Programme: Short Cuts Canada (Programme 1)
Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB
How does one even begin to describe the work of Theodore Ushev? The animation king, who won a Genie for The Lipsett Diaries, is a staple at film festivals. Each tour of the circuit reveals how each of the director’s works provides a unique and enthralling sensory experience. Ushev’s entry at TIFF 2013, Gloria Victoria, is another of his ambitious and visually enthralling abstract works. It’s also one of his best.

Gloria Victoria, the third installment of Ushev’s Twentieth Century trilogy following 2006’s Tower Bawher and 2008’s Drux Flux, is a moving and thrilling depiction of the relationship between art and war. Using the “invasion” theme from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, Ushev brings the symphony to life using remarkable visual counterpoints to realize the legacy of war from the earliest battles of civilization unto the present. From field-tilling peasants to the oil-gougers behind the never-ending war at the gas pumps, Gloria Victoria covers the scope of war. The film uses iconic images that have become powerful symbols for war and devastation. From a depiction of the Trojan Horse to a movement whose style invokes the horror of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, Gloria Victoria uses the maddening crescendo of “invasion” to build the escalating horror of war. As mankind develops, so do his weapons. The stylishly surreal images connect to create an angry war machine.

Gloria Victoria builds to a maddening finale. It pumps up the viewer with the force of heavy metal music, creating a sense agitation and anger as the bodies rise and become enveloped in an animated storm cloud of chaotic frenzy—the film is surely to look doubly stunning in its 3D presentation at the festival. Ushev ends the film on a calm, yet ironic note, as Gloria Victoria comes to rest in a peace symbol that can hardly sustain itself with all the shoddy debris with which it’s built. Gloria Victoria calls for peace, but as peace collapses and the sun sets on humanity, the film leaves the audience wondering if there is any glimmer of hope of the at the end of the arms race. 

Rating: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

Gloria Victoria screens in Short Cuts Canada Programme 1 on:
-Saturday, September 7, 9:45 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
-Sunday, September 8, 10:45 am at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4.

Some of the shorts will also be playing online 24 hours after their public screening, so please check http://www.youtube.com/tiff and see if Gloria Victoria is one them!

***Gloria Victoria also screens in Short Competition 5 at the Ottawa International Film Festival on:
September 20, 9:15 pm – ByTowne Cinema (GALA)
September 22, 11:00 am – ByTowne Cinema

Also reviewed from Short Cuts Canada 1: Subconscious Password