Viktoria is a baby girl born without a belly-button in Maya Vitkova’s film. Viktoria’s mother had hoped Viktoria would not be born, but Viktoria was born. Born in Bulgaria on September 9, 1979, the anniversary of the Soviet conquest of Bulgaria. Viktoria’s missing naval is perceived as an evolutionary upgrade, making her agitprop, a propaganda tool, for the Communist republic in the final decade of the Cold War. Viktoria’s mother and father get a new apartment, a red sedan, a moment in the sun. Every year on her birthday Viktoria receives a celebration, with cake and Coca-Cola, from the apparatchiks. She even has a direct line to the ministry. In fact none of this is true, although “Based on a True Story” is inserted cheekily in a title card to go along with documentary footage, both of which cast doubt on what truth meant in the former Soviet Union. The movie’s scope may be grand but it’s an intimate saga of mothers and daughters. With intense close-ups (especially of naked bodies), slow-motion sequences of celebration and sadness, and awesome overhead shots, Viktoria proves to be moody and atmospheric, reifying the notion that movies are a visual medium that convey narrative through images rather than words.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White