Czech Republic

Synopsis

Prague 1988 - before the Velvet Revolution and overthrow of Communism. A romantic city and sublime music are the backdrop for this heartwarming tale.
When Frantisek Louka, a virtuoso cellist with the august Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, makes a half-hearted verbal lunge at a Communist bureaucrat he is barred from travelling abroad. That finishes his career, and he is reduced to playing at funerals at the City crematoria. We find him at the beginning of the film short of money to the point of having to renovate inscriptions on tombstones in his spare time. The dream of a little fibreglass Trabant car (a symbol of the Communist Era), in which he could transport his cumbersome cello and avoid the daily traumas of public transport, seems unattainable. That is until the moment when a friendly grave-digger comes up with a proposition: "marry a young Russian who needs Czech papers! No ties, no obligations just your signature, and it will bring you enough money to buy yourself a Trabant and settle your debts." Louka rejects this idea outright.
But a series of incidents wear down his resolve and the hardened bachelor gives in, especially when the bride turns out to be young and pretty. The deal is concluded. The wedding takes place and only the unconsummated wedding night (which Louka views as his right and bonus) casts a little shadow over the transaction.
Soon afterwards Louka drives his newly acquired second-hand Trabant to the provincial town where his mother lives. To old Mrs Louka, a patriotic music teacher who remains under the illusion that her son still plays for the Philharmonic Orchestra, the continual drone of the Russian army convoys passing under her windows are a source of constant irritation and fuel her antipathy to all things Russian. Her son wisely keeps his secrets to himself.
However, Louka's elation over the clever ploy does not last for Jong. Unbeknown to him, his young Russian "wife" suddenly emigrates to Germany to join her lover, leaving her five-year-old son Kolya behind in Prague in the care of his grandmother. The grandmother is taken ill, and the first Louka learns of this development is when the little boy, his step-son, is deposited on his doorstep by two ambulance men and the bachelor's world collapses around his ears.
The boy's grandmother dies of a heart attack. Our bachelor with "no head for languages" is now the only official next of kin to the small child who speaks only Russian. Louka is stunned and angry. He has never been close to a child, let alone cared for one. Moreover, the boy is a Russian!
Through a struggle for understanding and coping with the demands of a disrupted life, the initial mistrust and resentment between the man and the boy turn, in the course of the film, into a warm, affectionate relationship. The first spontaneous kiss or touch of the child's hand become moments of revelation to the bachelor. The responsibility he strove to avoid all his adult life he now enjoys and tries to retain. He begins to take interest in the child and his happiness. Work is pushed aside, so that the boy can get a better experience of life. They embark together on a journey through the beautiful Czech countryside and learn from each other.
However, the events of the Velvet Revolution overtake the little team. When freedom is installed, Kolya's mother returns to Prague to obtain a divorce and claim her son. Louka's career prospers with his return to the Philharmonic Orchestra. Though saddened by Kolya's departure, he has been liberated from cynicism and is able to look forward to a new beginning.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Jan Sverak

Written by: Zdenek Sverak

Produced by: Eric Abraham, Jan Sverak

Main Cast: Zdenek Sverak (Frantisek Louka), Andrei Chalimon (Kolya), Libuse Safránková (Klara), Ondřej Vetchý (Mr Broz), Stella Zázvorková (mother), Ladislav Smoljak (Mr Houdek), Liliya Malkina (aunt Tamara)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Film 1996
  • EFA Feature Film Selection 1996