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Franta Louka is a concert cellist in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, a confirmed bachelor and a lady's man. Having lost his place in the state orchestra, he must make ends meet by playing at funerals and painting tombstones. But he has run up a large debt, and when his friend, the grave-digger Mr. Broz, suggests a scheme for making a lot of money by marrying a Russian woman so that she can get her Czech papers, he reluctantly agrees. She takes advantage of the situation to emigrate to West Germany, to her lover; and leaves her five-year-old son with his grandmother; when the grandmother dies, Kolya must come and live with his stepfather - Louka. Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
I've seen a number of U.S. movies filmed in Czechoslovakia, but this is the first Czech film I've seen. Seeing this makes me understand how Czechoslovakia could have a fairly booming film industry.
This movie came on on cable network IFC and it first grabbed my attention because I didn't recognize what language the characters were speaking. Within a couple of minutes, however, the movie itself had hooked me, though it's not the type of story I'd usually seek out. Indeed I was late to work and really wanted to get going, but I was unable to tear myself away.
Beyond the great writing, acting, and directing, this film has some truly amazing cinematography. There are occasions where the filmmakers seem to have commanded the universe around them to get these shots. In one scene, the lead character looks up through his car's windshield as he's driving, and in perfect synchronization the reflection of the airliner he was looking at passes across the windshield. Even more amazing was the shot from well up in the air, with the lead characters' car driving up the road, a train going up a track in parallel to them, and a hawk (or eagle?) hovering right in front of the camera and then diving off to the side -- and they got this shot right at "magic hour". In Hollywood CGI surely would have been used to coordinate this ballet of elements.
There were also many shots incorporating wonderfully poetic imagery. One of my favorites was the lead character staring into the reflective doors at the airport which close and reveal him to himself, standing there utterly alone.
One more comment -- another reviewer called the ending "predictable", but I'd have to disagree. I really didn't know where the movie would end up, and in fact it was portrayed so subtly that I had to rewind the final scene to be sure what had happened, and then go back and re-watch a prior scene that contained a seemingly throwaway line that bears on the ending.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful.
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