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I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed and written by Antonin Svoboda, You Bet Your Life stars Georg Friedrich as Kurt, a compulsive gambler who wants to do only that; he shirks all manner of responsibility, with his girlfriend, with the various jobs he drifts through, and with his father. One night he has a chance meeting with an older woman in a bar, and they bond over a video slot machine. They soon find themselves in a casino, where she proposes using one of her earrings that are a pair of dice to determine what numbers they should bet on at the roulette table.
This eventually leads Kurt to decide to base his entire life on a roll of the die. He soon turns away from his girlfriend and meets Tanja (Birgit Minichmayr), a sexy but rough drug addict, whom Kurt brings into his little game. Any successes in the casino are soon balanced by failures in the rest of his life which threaten to bring everything to a crashing halt.
You Bet Your Life is an interesting film, and Friedrich and Minichmayr have a fiery on-screen relationship. The only problem I had with the movie, and this may be due more to my own inattention, was with the latter half of the film, which is actually structured as six separate story lines, where Kurt mulls over different choices he could make when he and Tanja pull up to the gas station. Because the first choice or two take up so much screen time, it didn't seem readily apparent that each time the car pulls up to the gas station, a different choice is being shown. Had I realized that sooner, I think I would've appreciated the film more while I was watching it. In retrospect, though, the film gives an intriguing take on chance and fate and making choices in life.
Director Antonin Svoboda attended the screening and did a Q&A afterwards: - Svoboda has one friend who is a gambler, who he used as the object of the story (although he doesn't use dice like Kurt does).
Svoboda had followed the career of Georg Friedrich for several years,
and wrote the story especially for him, so he could see Friedrich in a lead role rather than the many side roles he has played.
The main inspiration for the film was Dostoyevsky's The Gambler, and
to a lesser extent, The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. Svoboda was always surprised by the end of The Gambler and what happens to the main character. For The Dice Man, Svoboda said that being set in the U.S. it should stay there, and that someone should make a movie based on that some day.
Minichmayr is actually a big star in theatre, while Friedrich works
mainly in the cinema, and the two had not worked together previously. Minichmayr was especially interested to take on the role of Tanja, as she had never played such a rotten girl character before.
Svoboda didn't want to focus too much on reality, but wanted to
concentrate more on possibility. He left the final possibility up to the audience to decide, as that was more truthful to the story he wanted to tell, as well as more provoking.
Svoboda was interested in having Kurt be a bad guy, or less positive,
making the audience wonder if he has any chance to come out of the situation he is in. He wanted to see if such an anti-hero could reach the audience.
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