Review of “Viktoria” at the Sarasota Film Festival #SFF2015

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Review by: Rodger Skidmore
Viktoria is your standard film about a girl born without a belly button. Yes, really. I guess this is my way (and yes, really, that is what it is about) of explaining that the film is full (chock full) of symbolism. It is a Czech film, directed by Maya Vitkova, about the fall of Communism in Bulgaria in 1989. The action starts ten years earlier when a couple is trying to have a baby (he is, she isn’t) and talking about fleeing to the West (her dream, not his). 

Remember the belly button thing? Well, under Communism, you really don’t need a mother or a father as the state will take care of you. Hence, when she was born, Viktoria had no belly button. One of the fun proceeding scenes (the actual birthing scene rivaled the abortion scene in the film The Tribe) was Viktoria’s mother lying in the bathtub, when all of a sudden a mass of blood is released from her vagina, symbolizing, of course, the mother and daughter’s separation and the losing, to the state, of their connection through their umbilical cord. 

There was so much symbolism in the film that, if I saw something I did not understand, I assumed that it really meant something else. The day that the Communist regime fell, Viktoria climbed a tree and fell; upon awakening, she had become a different person. Yes, some examples of the film’s symbolism were a bit heavy handed, but others were quite poetic and still others were true to the visions of the people of Bulgaria (of that time). 

Another scene not found in most Hollywood movies: the ritual bathing of Viktoria’s grandmother after her death. The grandmother had died in bed in her nightgown so Viktoria and her mother simply cut away her gown and underpants and then sponge-bathed her, completely. One could understand how, if this had been a real dead person rather than a live actor, how such a ritual cleaning, after the release of bodily fluids, would spread Ebola. 

Basically this film showed how people lived under Communism, how it changed them, how some did not change, how some longed for change and how all, in different ways, reacted to their own changes and the changes of others. The reason why one goes to film festivals – to see life as others know it.


For a description of every film’s plot, as well as show times, please go to:

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Feature | 155 Min
The last decade of Communism and the Dawn of democracy is the Bulgarian backdrop for this emotionally epic film that mixes absurdist satire and naturalistic drama with touches of magical realism. Symbolically portraying the polarizing viewpoints of this political regime are three characters in a maternal line: Dima, the grandmother who is a strict Communist party-member, Boryana, the anti-Communist mother whose escape is foiled by an unexpected pregnancy, and Viktoria, the daughter whose birth defect makes her a national celebrity and grants her family privileged status in the oppressive country. Like a visual symphony, this socio-political fantasia is told in three distinct sections or movements that have their own style, tempo, and mood, creating a unique and cathartic experience in cinematic storytelling.
Genre: Narrative
English Title: Viktoria
Category: Narrative Feature
Release Year: 2014
Runtime: 155 minutes
Type of Film: Narrative Feature
Production Country: Romania
Original Language: Bulgarian
Subtitles: English
Cast/Crew Info
Cast: Irmena Chichikova
Daria Vitkova
Kalina Vitkova
Mariana Krumova
Dimo Dimov
Georgi Spasov
Anastasia Inglilizova
Katerina Angelova
Svetoslav Draganov
Miroslav Pashov
Director: Maya Vitkova
Produced By: Maya Vitkova
Co-Producer: Anca Puiu
Screenwriter: Maya Vitkova
Cinematography: Krum Rodriguez
Editing By: Alexander Etimov
Production Design by: Rin Yamamura
Music By: Kaloyan Dimitrov
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