Kolya

This 1996 film from Czech film-maker Jan Sverak is a wonderful exploration of how a life can change and find meaning in an unexpected way.  The director’s father Zdenek plays the central role of Louka, a dedicated bachelor who earns his living as a cellist, or struggles to by playing at funerals; his previous job with an orchestra was lost when he was considered to be politically unreliable.  This is Czechoslovakia in the late 80s and, although the Soviet bloc is disintegrating, the regime is still a totalitarian one.

Louka struggles to make a living and agrees to marry a Russian woman for cash.  Things go wrong when she uses her new citizenship status to esacpe to the West, leaving her five-year old son behind.  The boy is the Kolya of the title.

The story is one of a growing bond between man and boy, despite the language difficulties and the other problems of an inexperienced bachelor trying to look after a young boy.  What becomes clear, though, is the sense that both need each other.  For Louka, in particular, the change to his life is positive; he finds purpose in the role of parent.

Towards the end of the film, the events of the late 80s in the Eastern bloc affect both man and boy.  The ending plays cleverly on the idea of freedom and loss, for both individuals and groups.

The film is never sentimental but it is affecting.  It is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

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