Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
Inspired by Germany’s The Lives of Others, Czech director Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovský (Divided We Fall) have created a richly resonant drama exploring the intersection of personal lives and communist state surveillance in their own country. Twenty years after the Velvet Revolution, not a month passes without new reports of people whose fates were manipulated decades earlier by the notorious STB. A philandering young sound engineer’s involvement in such a TV documentary about his father-in-law is our entry point into a secret family history loaded with what, to the younger man’s jaundiced eye, look like out-and-out betrayals. The truth, of course, is much more interesting.
Admirers of Hrebejk’s earlier films will not be surprised by his grace with actors or the rare shrewdness and clarity with which he has them delineate complex relationships and choices. Nor by his amusement at the lengths we can go to represent ourselves in a good light when no light at all might be advisable: this film contains the year’s most hilariously excruciating break-up scene. It also contains a ferocious mother/daughter confrontation that seems so necessary and real that it is cathartic. — BG
“While many other Central European countries have dealt with their collaborationist past in movies, Hrebejk and Jarchovský claim theirs is the first to do so in the Czech Republic. Typically, but without devaluing the content, it’s dealt with in a very Czech way – without real bitterness, marbled with a lightness of touch, and capped by a final scene that’s wound-healing in its tartly genial humor.” — Derek Elley, Variety