Liesel Landauer and her friend Hana are linked by a lifelong relationship and an exceptional house built by the architect Von Abt for Liesel and her husband Viktor in Czechoslovakia in the ...
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Liesel Landauer and her friend Hana are linked by a lifelong relationship and an exceptional house built by the architect Von Abt for Liesel and her husband Viktor in Czechoslovakia in the early 1930s.
"The Affair" (2019 release; 104 min.) brings the story of best friends Liesel and Hana, and their attachment to a particular house. As the movie opens, we are in the 1930s and newlyweds Liesel and Viktor meet with a famous architect, and he designs and builds a fabulous house for them, with glass windows from floor to ceiling and an overall minimalist and modern feeling. It's not long before Liesel has a baby, and then another. Hana is herself trying desperately to get pregnant. Then the Nazis cross into Czechoslovakia and force Liesel and her family to flee... At this point we are 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is a Ccech mega-production, directed by Julius Sevcík. The film is the big screen adaptation of the novel "The Glass Room" by British author Simon Mawer. I didn't read the book and hence cannot comment on how closely the movie sticks to the book. Spanning a good 30 years (up to the 1968 invasion by the Soviets), this historical drama has all the makings of a thrilling movie, in which we follow the fates of several families, and that one fabulous house. But when you are watching it all unfold, several things do not add up and feel strangely removed, or simply manufactured. There are a number of other issues that bother me. First, why was the movie's title changed from "The Glass Room" (which would make perfect sense) to "The Affair"? Second, when you look at the movie's poster, it is very misleading (for reasons that become clear once you see the movie). Third, the new title is confusing as one of the movie's lead performers, Danish actor Claes Bang, starred in the long-running Showtime TV series called "The Affair", which to be clear has nothing to this with this film. Last but not least, after seeing the film, I was curious about that house and it didn't take me long to find that indeed this house was built for real in the 1930s for the Tugendhat family. One of the family's real-life descendents decried the book upon its publication, saying that "first the Nazis took our house, and now Mawer took our story". (Please note that the film does not reference this historical link in any manner, presenting this as pure fiction.) Despite all these misgivings, there are some great elements to the film, including the lead performances be Dutch actress Carie va Houten (as Hana) and Swedish actress Hanna Alstrom (as Liesel). This film gathered 6 nominations for the Czech equivalents of the Oscars, mostly for second-tier categories like Best Cinematography, Stage Design, and Costume Design. Bottom line: "The Affair" is an okay, but just okay, historical drama that feels like a missed opportunity for something much bigger than what we end up watching.
"The Affair" premiered 2 years ago in Europe, and out of the blue it was released this weekend in select US theaters. I have no idea how or why that is, and why it's released in the US right now. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so: 5 people to be exact including myself, which is par for the course for most films I've seen during these COVID-19 times. I can't imagine this will play more than a week or two in theaters before this moves on to streaming. If you are in the mood for a historical drama playing out over 3 decades in central Europe, I>'d readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (if you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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