Viktoria: A gloomy movie that suddenly becomes a comedy.

The first 27 minutes of Viktoria are brutal and slow and bland. You will not like them. The year is 1979, the country is Bulgaria, and the main character is a young woman, Boryana (Irmena Chichikova). Boryana has a boring husband, Ivan (Dimo Dimov), and both of them live in Boryana's mother's small apartment. The mother is a severe socialist. She believes in her country and is a member of the ruling party. The revolution is not over for the mother. Boryana hates everything her mother loves, and loves everything her mother hates, like American consumer products. When Boryana is alone in the bathroom, she secretly smokes Marlboro cigarettes while dreaming of leaving her drab socialist existence.

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None of this is pretty to watch. Boryana almost never talks to her mother, expresses no love to her husband, and sees the baby developing in her thin body as a monster. She wants to eject the thing from her system and drink her Coca-Colas in peace.

When the baby is born, however, this gloomy movie suddenly becomes a comedy. We see the stunned faces of the nurses and a doctor. They are looking down at the newborn and trying to make sense of something strange. What is it? The baby has no belly button. Could it be a miracle baby? The doctor informs party officials. The leader of Bulgaria visits the hospital and declares the miracle is not religious but proof of the progress socialism is making. He moves the baby and her parents into a nice and roomy apartment, gets them good jobs in the government, and treats the baby, named Viktoria, like a national treasure.

The movie then jumps 10 years ahead and enters the twilight of a socialist brat.

Viktoria (Daria Vitkova) has everything she wants. Next to her bed is a direct line to the leader of the party. She is driven to school by a chauffeur, who, as she sits in the large backseat, hands her the best sandwiches that socialism has to offer. At school, she treats the teachers and students like shit. One could not imagine a more happy childhood. And it would have gone on like this forever had not the Berlin Wall collapsed and the party that spoiled her, the navel-less girl of the future, been overthrown by pro-democracy forces. The kind of depression that grips Viktoria can be understood only by Americans who are former child stars.

The film is a bit long, but its middle and final parts have many moments that are wonderfully nutty. Here is one I can't get out my head: The grandmother (on her knees) is washing Viktoria (who is standing) in a bathroom. At one point, sad Viktoria, no longer the center of the world, knowing the calls from the leader of the party are going to stop, looks down at her grandmother and then down at her body. At first you think the grandmother is going to do something inappropriate, but instead she lovingly rubs her granddaughter's smooth (almost alien) tummy. It had been the source of her fame and power. It is now just a freak of nature.

There is a lot of poetry in this Viktoria, and it has a sequence of news and video footage that, with a dramatic score, brilliantly captures the year that launched the world we now live in, 1989.

That year was really something else.