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For a little love, I would go to the edge of the world ...
We saw this film when it was first released in Prague, bought the screenplay in Czech, and now own the DVD. This masterpiece from the father-son Sverák team is a gentle low-key story that has appealed here to all ages. It was the most popular movie of the year in terms of theater attendance. The theme is "the search for love" in its very broadest sense, with the sub-theme of the impact of freedom and capitalism on lives in the Czech Republic.
The main character, sixty-five year old Josef Tkaloun, introduces the theme in his classroom of Czech teenagers. In his lesson about a beloved Czech writer, Jaroslav Vrchlicky, he quotes: "For a little love, I would go to the edge of the world bareheaded and barefooted." We follow this theme in his own life and marriage, his daughter's and little grandson's lives, as well as in those of various other characters, young, middle-aged, and elderly, who surround him.
Neither Zdenek Sverák as a writer nor the character of Tkaloun he has written for himself is a judgmental man. Tkaloun's most characteristic response perhaps, is a quiet, "Jo takhle" or "Ah, so that's how it is." Sverák sketches a small world and, within it, gives us a very poignant human story permeated with a feeling of acceptance of all of us in our various weaknesses.
The sub-theme of changes in Czech life since the 1989 revolution may be harder for non-Czech viewers to catch entirely. The local library, for example, has been replaced by a new teeth-whitening business called "Happy Smile." In this one little touch, Czechs will recognize the loss of their public library, the introduction of a strange, expensive, and hitherto unnecessary business, and the current vogue for abandoning Czech for the snobbier, more chic English name.
We also see how the very young, without memories of the "old" days, consider all this as the normal state of affairs, though they realize that their parents or grandparents do not. In a small closely-knit society such as the Czech Republic, relations between generations, whether within the family, at work or school, or in public, have been markedly different in many ways than what one sees in a country such as the U.S. This is now changing with the influx of dubbed television programs, translated popular magazine articles, and advertising. Many youngsters now prefer to go to the mall rather than on the traditional family trip to the countryside, for example. Although most still automatically get up to give their tram or metro seat to an older person, some now ignore this previous mark of well-brought-up behavior.
We should mention, too, that we find the humor delightful. Even on a third viewing we laughed. These performances stand up in the long run.
This movie will definitely be a classic. Thank you Zdenek and Jan Sverák!!!
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