Oct-Dec 2010 Screenings
1996 - Jan Sverák - 105 mins - Czech Republic
Fri 20 Sep 2002 at 8.30pm
Scariff Community Sports Hall, Scariff, Co. Clare
Midnight Court Rating: 4.7 (3 votes)
Cinematography: Vladimir Smutny
Writer: Zdenek Sverák
Music: Odrej Soukup
Cast: Zdenek Sverák, Andrej Chalimon, Libuse Safrankova, Ondrej Vetchy, Stella Zazvorkova, Ladislav Smolijak
Producer: Eric Abraham, Jan Sverák
Storyline: The film opens by introducing us to Louka (Zdenek Sverák, the director's father, who also wrote the script), a 55-year old professional cellist who has three great passions in life: music, women, and disdain for the Russians occupying his country. Because of a past blunder, Louka is forbidden to perform in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, where he once held a revered post. Instead, he must work menial jobs, such as refurbishing grave headstones and playing his instrument at cremations. But Louka is fighting a losing battle against poverty -- he's in debt and sinking fast. However, financial stability becomes a tantalizing possibility when his friend, Broz (Ondrej Vetchy), offers him a proposition.
If Louka, a confirmed bachelor, agrees to a marriage of convenience with a young Russian woman (she needs Czech citizenship), he'll be rewarded handsomely. Against his better judgment, he agrees, but the results are disastrous. His new bride runs off to West Germany to be with her lover, and Louka is left behind minding her 5-year old son, Kolya (Andrej Chalimon). Then a strange thing begins to happen -- the harder Louka tries to get rid of the boy, the more he becomes attached to Kolya.
Prague, 1988: the twilight of communism in the Czech Republic. As the Iron Curtain begins to collapse all across Eastern Europe, the collective voice of the Czech people is finally heard in what became known as the 'Velvet Revolution.' Yet, even with such world-shaping events happening in the background, Kolya is still a deeply personal motion picture that has far more to do with the human soul than with the political restructuring of a country.
Even though Kolya comes from Eastern Europe (the director, Jan Sverak, is a member of the new wave of Czech cinema), its message and intentions are universal in scope. The film's essential kernel - one man's discovery of the importance of love by caring for a child -- has fueled numerous other films through the years in many different languages. Recently, such diverse works as Il Ladro di Bambini, Ciao Professore!, and even last year's dimly-received Bogus, have relied upon this theme.
One of the reasons why Kolya satisfies is that it effectively marries the metamorphosing political umbrella with the changes in Louka's personal circumstances. Essentially, this is a tale of new beginnings. Louka, who has wandered through life living only for his music and never wondering what it might be like to have a family, experiences not just a rejuvenation of his soul, but a rebirth, even as a different country is rising out of the ashes of the former socialist dictatorship. Kolya opens Louka to experiences and emotions he never believed possible, and at age 55, he discovers new meaning in an isolated existence that had grown repetitious.
Without question, Kolya is a beautifully composed motion picture; there's an almost-poetic quality to the manner in which many of the scenes have been framed. The film also boasts a strong cast. Zdenek Sverak bears a resemblance to Sean Connery not only in appearance but in screen presence. Complimenting him is young Andrej Chalimon, whose unaffected performance allows us to forget that we're watching an inexperienced actor. Finally, Libuse Safrankova brings a great deal of appeal to the role of Louka's would-be girlfriend, Klara.
Recently, the number of foreign-language films released in the United States has slowed to a trickle, and, of those that have opened here, few have been from Eastern Europe. Kolya represents Miramax's first major foreign-language release of the new year, and, for those who aren't intimidated by subtitles, it offers a charming, warm-hearted evening of cinema.
Verdicts from the Midnight Court
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