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Czech Republic, 2011, 91 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Animated, Drama, Family Issues
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: Czech English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Zdenek Jiráský
Editor: Petr TurynaScreenwriter: Zdenek JiráskýCinematographer: Vladimír SmutnýPrincipal Cast: Vladimír Javorský, Malgorzata Pikus, Marika Soposká, Aneta Krejcíková
For those trapped in the ugly, snow-clogged, nameless village at the heart of Czech director’s Zdenek Jiráský’s unblinking drama, life is a constant battle against tedium and depression. A scraggly, defeated head-of-household, Jarda Hrdina (Vladimír Javorský), measures out his bone-weary days as a railroad signalman, then wastes his nights (and his meager salary) feeding the slot machines in the back room of a cheap bar. Not even his considerable skill as an artist who builds meticulous matchstick sculptures inside wine bottles can give pleasure to a citizen so bottled-up himself. Meanwhile, Jarda’s wife scrubs toilets at the train station. His son grows pot and curses his fate with other layabout teenagers; they drink themselves stupid whenever they can afford it. And Hrdina’s daughter has gotten pregnant by a local ne’er-do-well.
What relief for human beings so wretched? Weekly striptease shows don’t do the trick, and when the aging women of the town decide to re-enact a synchronized dance-and-gymnastics act they performed 25 years earlier at a state-sponsored “festival of physical culture,” the glow is long gone from these former “flower buds.” Nothing may bloom in this village again.
Thus do writer-director Jiráský, a brave ensemble cast and an able cinematographer (Vladimír Smutný) reveal the soul-killing limits of existence in the post-Stalinist Czech Republic. Bright flags may have waved when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the new capitalist economy might have lifted some boats, but this relentlessly bleak look at the uncertain aftermath of totalitarian rule is not likely to thrill the Czech ministry of tourism.
- BILL GALLO
In cooperation with Bohemian Productions, Honorary Consulate for the Czech Republic of Colorado
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