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Ila von Hasperg
Stepan, Czech high school graduate, enrolls at the Medical University in Prague. In addition to anatomy, he also learns about love, money, friendship, and getting on in life.
I've just seen this movie and I am amazed. For me, it captures the essence the world I come from (late eighties, East Europe). This is a world which, on the one hand, is easy to talk about, but on the other hand, I have always found it very difficult to make people from outside the region understand what it was really like to grow up then and what exactly had molded us into what we are: East Europeans.
Back then, you could never be completely in control of your life. You could set your goals and you could work hard to achieve them, but--in retrospect over my own life and the lives of people I know--the goalposts always seemed to be being moved by the leaders. We yearned for freedom but, when we finally got it six years after this movie was shot, we simply didn't know what to do with it.
Before I get carried away, let me explain how all this relates to the movie. If you watch contemporary movies about university or college students, you can expect to see confident, assertive, funny guys who walk around drinking, thinking about drinking and hooking up with chicks. Stepan, the protagonist of this movie, is way more self-conscious than these or even, say, the flatmates in Auberge Espagnol (another very interesting movie about the European melting pot which is only missing a bunch of East Europeans to its credit). Stepan's coming-to-age is less flamboyant than what today's pampered young people expect to see in movies and live through in life.
Apart from Stepan's story, different story lines unfold too. My favorite scenes are the ones shot at the "disco", especially when Stepan's friends are playing. Those are very funny (and, to me, nostalgic, although you can hear a lot of crappy music of this kind still today, at least in my country, Hungary), although quite frankly, I'm not content with the categorization of this movie as 'comedy'. This movie made me think a lot more than it made me laugh. Having said that, it's way funnier than the Hungarian movies I know about this period. And again despite all that, I am surprised how this Czechoslovakian movie is similar to my favorite Hungarian ones!
All in all, if you want to understand the pre-1990 East Europe a little more (driven either by nostalgia or curiosity), I strongly recommend that you watch this movie. I would also appreciate if future commentators would suggest some similar movies to watch--I love them! Also let me know if there was too much philosophy and little said about the film--this is my first review so last chance for those who want to make the world a better place and teach a verbose self-appointed philosopher a lesson.
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