Jan Hrebejk (Czechia, 1967) directed
the rock and roll comedy
Šakalí Leta/ Big Beat (1993), scripted by
Ceska Soda/ Czech Soda (1998)
Pelisky/ Cosy Dens (1999)
Musime si Pomahat/ Divided We Fall (2000)
The film opens in 1939, when some Jews are afraid of the nazis and one of
them tells a friend where the family's jewels are kept.
Then it fast forwards to 1943, when a young man is running frantically in the
dark empty streets. He is a Jew, running away from nazis. A man sees him and
gets scared that the nazis might execute the entire street: so he calls the
nazis, ready to sacrifice the Jew in order to save everybody else. Ironically,
the nazis don't hear him and leave.
Horst, who is married to a German woman and collaborates with the nazis,
brings food to a nice childless couple, the invalid Josef and Marie.
Josef hates the nazis, while his friend Horst has learned
to live with them. They have deported the family of their old Jewish employer,
and Josef feels sorry for them, who were decent people. Since Josef had
promised to save the family's jewels, he enters the villa at night.
He finds David, the son of the business man, who has escaped the
concentration camp and is hiding there (the same young man who was running
in the street). Josef and Marie hide him in their apartment, but then realize
that "they have decided for the entire street", meaning that collective
punishment will befall on them if they are caught.
Horst makes an unannounced visit, bringing presents as usual.
He is trying to convince Josef to join the German collaborators who help
confiscating property from dispossessed Jews. Horst is
becoming more obnoxious and pretentious as he gets more powerful.
Marie is ambivalent about their secret: on one hand she never misses an
opportunity to blame her husband for bringing in the Jew, but on the other
hand she is merciful and sympathetic with the poor kid locked in the closet
day and night. She suggests that Josef accepts Horst's job offer, so as
to get more protection and deflect possible suspicions. Josef accepts,
and is considered a collaborator by the neighbors,
while Marie spends the days learning French from David, and getting more
and more tender towards him, as if she, the childless mother, had finally
found her baby to nurse and protect.
Horst's visits become more frequent, and one evening a farce takes place:
Marie fakes a sickness and hides David in her bed, and Horst tries to romance
her grabbing a hand that is actually David's; Josef saves both by singing
and dancing the circus music. Unbeknownst to them, the neighbor, Franta,
them, disgusted by their partying with the nazis (he is the same man who
was ready to turn in David in the street).
While Josef is at the hospital having his sperm tested, Horst takes Marie for
a ride and a picnic. Then he tries to rape her, but she fights him. In the
meantime, Josef gets the response: he can't have children.
Josef tries to explains to his acquaitances that he is not a real collaborator,
but German officers salute him in the street.
Humiliated, Horst takes revenge on Marie by forcing them to provide lodging
for a nazi officer. Marie refuses on the ground that she is pregnant.
But now she has to get pregnant, and Josef proposes that David do it.
Marie and David have sex (and don't seem too sorry about it) in the bedroom
while Josef gets drunk in the living room. Needless to say, Horst rings the
bell just at that time. The sexual partners get scared, but Josef calmly
confronts Horst and sends him away, then convinces his wife and David to
continue their performance. She does get pregnant, and Horst has to apologize
to her. The times are changing. As the Germans are beginning to lose, Horst
becomes more human. He saves their lives when the Germans search the street
house by house. Finally, the Germans are defeated and people dance in the
streets. The crowds attack the collaborators. Right then Marie has to give
birth. Josef runs outside looking for a doctor to help. But everywhere is
chaos. He finally finds the new commander: his old neighbor Franta. But Franta
remembers him as a collaborator and orders his arrest. Josef protests his
innocence and invites them to check in person at his house, that he risked
his life to protect a Jew. They allow him to pick his doctor. In the jails,
Josef does not see his doctor bus finds Horst, crouched in a corner.
Josef risks his life one more time, this time to save the collaborator who
saved his life once: Josef tells the partisans that Horst is a doctor.
The partisans escort them to Josef's house, driving through the ruins of
the city. In another slapstick-style scene, Horst pretends to be a doctor
and helps Marie, who is terrified to see Horst acting as the doctor.
Now Josef needs to produce the Jew, but David, scared by the armed men,
has run out of the window. The captain of the partisans doesn't believe him
and is about to shoot him without a trial, but David finally shows up.
Josef can finally prove that he was a hero, not a collaborator.
The baby is born. Both David and the neighbor Franta go along with
Josef's lie about Horst, and let the partisans believe that he is indeed
a doctor, thus saving his life.
Days later, Josef walks the baby through the devastated streets of his city, as
thousands of people are digging in the ruins (a symbol of hope).
The director manages to create a surreal tale and a philosophical apologue
out of a historical tragedy.
The director increases the suspense and the tension by resorting to cinematic
tricks as low-frame shots, fuzzy focus, super-imposition ofimages,
expressionistic shading, etc. and
comic, slapstick-like scenes accompanied by circus music.
Horem Padem/ Up and Down (2004)
Kraska v Nesnazích/ Beauty in Trouble (2006)
Medvídek/ Teddy Bear (2007)
U me Dobrý/ I'm All Good (2008)
Nestyda/ Shameless (2008)
Kawasakiho Ruze/ Kawasaki's Rose (2009)
Nevinnost/ Innocence (2011)
Svata Ctverice/ The Holy Quaternity (2012)
Líbanky/ Honeymoon (2013)
Zakazane Uvolneni (2014)
Ucitelka/ The Teacher (2016)