A factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have ... Read allA factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have been conscripted. The army sends reservists, mostly married middle-aged men - and the loca... Read allA factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have been conscripted. The army sends reservists, mostly married middle-aged men - and the local beauty Andula, spurns those bold enough to try to win her, for the jazz pianist, newly c... Read all
Sometimes that seems to be aligned with national stories, the stories people use to define themselves. In a big country, that's one of the nationally accepted stereotypes. But in a small country, it's often the story about what it means to be Cuban, Romanian, Czech.
Its exaggerated by the fact that films themselves are distilled stories which become divorced from context when viewed later and far away. But I do think I can see into the soul of Swedes and Poles when I see unique trends in the better crafted films from those areas. That's why its so interesting when the Norweigian soul seems so distinct from the Swedes. And the Czech soul so radically different from the Polish.
Its a matter of the Polish character that the world is essentially defined by human existence and humans are defined by essential goodness. This gives a delicate filigree of interaction that underlies everything else, including government, religion (which is always the church) and other human-triggered disruption. Polish films enter into what it means to be human, always choosing the most lovely, even holy notion of being.
Czech films and life, however, seems to have completely different shuffle of the same layers. At root are the mechanics of God who instead of working with golden threads of human intent has his own ideas about pain, confusion and testing. Within this storm of fate humans try to sparkle, bond, love. But they are always fighting a storm, God's storm sometimes facilitated by clueless but comfortable apparatchiks.
Its nearly impossible to make a good film with these constraints, with this national story, because what works to define self doesn't work in packaging something that needs to stand alone.
This may be the only Czech movie made in the country that finds a solution. Its strange and unfamiliar, but it works.
The key characteristic is that its rooted in the fact that there is no story. There cannot be a story. All real stories are hopeless and the best you can have (if you are Czech) are dreams about stories. The form of the narrative is extremely capricious: we focus on different small groups apparently accidentally. Are they where the seed of thing will be planted and grow? The factory girls in their dreaming dormitory, the factory owner with the bosses, the aging reservists trying to score, the pianist who plays the girl into bed, the parents who annotate storytelling by wondering about the nature of story for 15 minutes. We end with the girl back with her dorm-mates not knowing whether she is recounting what we have seen or something rosier.
Its an amazingly endearing story about the lack or stories, about the desire from love with no ledges.
It is unlike anything I have seen before save two films. And naturally they are by this same fellow. (I except the disastrous "Amandeus" which, like Mozart's music is all ornamentation and nothing else.)
If you rewatch "Cuckoo's Nest" and "Man in the Moon" against the context of the storyteller, you'll find he is the character. He does allow the character in the story to bounce around in a void looking for some structure to use in weaving a self, but he denies any reference, excepting the rejection of what surrounds. They are both just glossy, simple versions of this, this perfect solution of making a story without stories.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
- Feb 16, 2008