Kolya

From 1997, the film is set in the dying days of the old Soviet “empire” in what was then Czechoslovakia. It is about 15 years since I first saw this film and it still brings a smile. Directed by Jan Svĕrák (Dark Blue World, 2001) and staring his brother Zdenek SvĕráK. It was written by Zdenek and Pavel Taussig. Our hero is Louka (Jan SvĕráK, Empties 2007). Louka used to be a cellist with the Czechoslovak Symphony Orchestra but was removed for reasons falling somewhere between deliberate and mistake, this was in the days of bureaucratic decisions being made by the technocrats regardless of the effects. Light-hearted and warm it tackles the events of the time in a manner which might just bring your finger to your eye to wipe away something…nudge nudge. You will laugh.

Being unemployed, our confirmed bachelor, must have an income. He manages this by performing at weddings and funerals. He also supports himself by painting tombstones. In with all of this is his relationship with his on/off girlfriend. Between performances which to say the least, he has no interest in, he talks with his friend the gravedigger. It is here that he learns of a way to make some money fast; marry a Russian bride so she gets her visa out of Russia. Sounds like it could be done, so he agrees.

The arrangements are made and before long, Louka is married to his Russian bride. At this stage we could say they lived happily ever after, but then there would be no film, in fact things go down-hill at an appreciable rate. His Russian bride has her heart elsewhere, namely with her boyfriend I West Germany. Before long she leaves Louka and heads to Germany leaving her son, Kolya behind. Kolya goes to live with his grand-mother for a while but she dies and the authorities decide the child must live with his step-father; Louka

After some resistance, from all side, Louka and Kolya begin to settle down together with room being made in his dingy garret flat. The fact that neither of them speaks the other’s language doesn’t help either. As they progress slowly coming to terms with each other, fate throws another spanner in to the works, Kolya contracts meningitis which requires specific medication for him. This all brings the situation for the two into focus with the authorities. Louka is threatened with prison.

As the world is about to come tumbling down around him, events in the outside world gather pace and the old regime is swept away by the Velvet Revolution. This together with the events in Germany, Kolya’s mother is able to be reunited with him. Things end well for Louka also, he and his girlfriend soon have a new family member to care for.

This is an easy going film, looking at life from the point of view of somebody who despite having things go against him, is determined to get on with things. There are some great moments of simple verbal and situational comedy scattered in here, which make it a cut above the rest. Dig it up, watch it and feel better about life.

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