Já, Olga Hepnarová
France, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic 2016
The film shows the human being behind the mass murderer without glorifying or downplaying the terrible crime she committed. Guided by her letters we delve into Olga’s psyche and witness the worsening of her loneliness and alienation as we re-construct the events that led up to her disastrous actions.
Evil is part of human being. Although the story is set in the 1970s, young people world-wide today still face problems of not belonging, being different, and being bullied because of race, gender or sexual orientation.
It is an anti-detective story, where we say from the beginning that Olga Hepnarova committed multiple murder. This gives us the chance to focus on the story’s existential level and to ask why she did what she did.
This dimension is underscored by the fact that the character of Olga Hepnarova is in every scene of the film.
The film is shot in black-and-white and in a stylistically simple manner. It is not a retro film, but a modern black-and-white approach to a soft, grey image. We focus on the main character and her face, even when over the course of the story Olga encounters many other characters who make up society.
The pacing is slower, the editing focused, holding things together.
What matters in the story we are presented with is not the very act of multiple homicide, but the context and the preceding events that led up to it. The ultimate goal of violence and the very shape it took as well as the ideological vindication given by the girl herself are still of importance in today’s world: “By no means do I regret what happened out there in the street. It was not my intention to kill those very people, I did not care who would die. It was the principle that mattered, and I wanted to fulfil it.”
What is the difference between a young man who shoots down half his high school somewhere in America or Europe, and Olga Hepnarova, a 22-year-old Czech girl who drove a truck into a group of people? Don’t they both experience the same frustration, indifference towards their social environment and feelings of alienation? Aren’t they the same in their repeated cries for help? Isn’t the destiny of each closer than one might expect? Isn’t their motivation actually the same? Doesn’t this similarity testify that the case of “that girl with a truck”, as she was spoken of back then, possesses a meaning unchanged through time and applicable anywhere, remaining the criminologists’ daily bread? How is it possible that such cases still happen today and all the institutions, organisations, churches, advanced medical science and psychology, all mechanisms set up to prevent accidents fail time and time again?
Without any doubt, Olga Hepnarova was different. She grew timid and tried to keep a low profile, her head ducked and her lips curled in a secret smile. It was the very fact of her being different that got her into constant conflict with others. She stood apart, sick and frustrated, nevertheless the society she lived in had the exact same attributes.
Even though our epoch is one of democracy and liberty, alike phenomena seem to keep showing up. Even today, a feeling of gloom lingers throughout society. In a relatively prosperous environment, there exists a feeling of loneliness and alienation in the middle of crowded cities. On an individual level, the feelings of being different or bullied are perpetuated, as well as the elements of racism and harassment. Isn’t it patent that today’s social phenomena such as the widespread popularity of pets spell out a deterioration of inter-human relations? Isn’t it just a matter of time until the next individual or group of the same type as Olga Hepnarova will appear?
“I am the victim of bullying. And I would like to ask you not to breed such people. If you do not breed them, they will not think the way I do and do what I did” – this was one of the motives Olga Hepnarova used to defend herself in court defence.
Let’s not forget, that the crimes of the individual are always a lot more apparent than the crimes committed by society which we are all part of. We hide in the crowd more often than we stand up for the rights of the individual. This is just as true today as it was years ago.
Olga Hepnarova’s story is that of a lonely person defining herself in opposition to the majority, a story in which no one wins and no one is defeated.
Nobody should take away one’s right for isolation, but there is a big difference if one choses isolation or if forced into it by society. There is still no answer to the question whether Olga Hepnarova was attracted to loneliness because of herself and simply failed or if she was forced into it by her emotionless and adverse surroundings. A society which treats individuals as well as itself unjustly is sick and creates sick people.
The film, however, doesn’t glorify Olga Hepnarova’s act. The film would like to convey that no one has the right to increase this suffering - neither the individual (Olga Hepnarova’s act), nor society (her execution).
The film is also trying to find the causes of this tragedy – those which we are able to prevent today (more empathic psychology, increased tolerance of sexual minorities, the emotional co-dependence of children and parents ...) and those, that we cannot change (evil is an integral part of human beings).
In Olga’s story we’d like to emphasize most of all coldness and cruelty in society as a whole. People treat each other with indifference, without empathy and understanding, interested only in their own selves. By that we wish to stress is that with regard to Olga Hepnarova’s act guilt and responsibility are shared by all who enter her story.
Connected to the feeling of isolation and loneliness is how Olga Hepnarova, after a certain point in the story, when she can no longer put up with the lack of empathy in her surroundings, locks herself in her own self for good. She brings into existence Sandy Winiferova and hides in her the last remaining fragments of her morality. Sandy, unlike Olga, is clean. The world thus becomes an abstract, unemotional mass to Hepnarova, with which she can deal in the same abstract and unemotional manner. Either on the basis of the situation that provokes the manipulation of her surroundings and is aimed at creating hatred against her and thus confirming her notions. Or with and endless space for a game that leads to – seemingly irrational – mass murder.
They have co-operated on several short fictions and documentary student films screened at numerous international film festivals.
2012 - PLAYOFF
2012 - THE SCIENTIST
2009 - MANY MEN AND MANY WOMEN
2009 - I AND ME
2009 - EVERYTHING IS CRAP
2007 - JAN
2006 - ECLIPSE
2003 - ANTERO
Cast & Crew
Directed by : Tomáš Weinreb, Petr Kazda
Written by : Tomáš Weinreb, Petr Kazda
Produced by : Tomáš Weinreb, Petr Kazda, Vojtech Fric, Marcin Kurek, Sylwester Banaszkiewicz, Marian Urban
Director of Photography : Adam Sikora
Editor : Vojtech Fric
Production Design : Alexander Kozák
Costume Design : Aneta Grnáková
Hair & Make up Artist : Alina Janerka
Sound Design : Richard Müller
Main Cast : Michalina Olszanska (Olga Hepnarová), Martin Pechlát (Miroslav), Klára Melíšková (Mother), Marika Šoposká (Jitka), Juraj Nvota (Advocate), Ondrej Malis (Psychologist), Martin Finger (Doctor), Marta Mazurek (Olga's room-mate), Zuzana Stavná (Olga's sister)
Animation : Petr Kapeller
Nominations and Awards
- EFA Selection 2016