Monday, 6 April 2009

Kolja (aka Kolya) (1996) - ickleReview (DVD)

Czech film about Frantisek Louka (Zdenek Sverák) a cello player who is only allowed to play at funerals after he was banned from the Philarmonia. Struggling to make enough money, he agrees to a fake marriage with a Russian woman so that she can obtain Czech papers and he can earn enough money for a Trabant and to pay off some of his debts. Shortly after the wedding, the Russian woman runs away to her lover in Germany, leaving her son in Prague with her grandmother. When the grandmother dies after a stroke, the little boy, Kolja (Andrei Chalimon), is left for Louka to look after.

Louka is a ladies' man, previously unmarried and with no intention of settling down or starting a family. His music takes priority, along with a string of younger female lovers. All this changes when he has to think of Kolja before himself. The little boy only speaks Russian, but gradually picks up a few words of Czech.

This beautifully shot film is set in Prague on the eve of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. There are a couple of startling incidental shots featuring a bird of prey and a red squirrel in the foreground of basic continuity sequences of Louka travelling in his Trabant. The opening few minutes introduces the viewer to Louka with subtle touches - playing the cello in church in plain clothes and in socks with holes in the toes, boiling a kettle during a performance, using his bow to lift the skirt of the solo soprano from behind. He is a talented musician but is frequently late to his jobs playing at funerals all over the city since he has to use public transport. There is light, delicate humour throughout, mainly thanks to Sverák's endearing performance as Louka.

Nugget: won the 1997 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Heart-warming fun without being overly schmaltzy.

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