Thursday, January 15, 2009
Marcela finds her angel in an older Czech expatriate named Benes (Josef Abrh & aacute;m) who's been living and thriving in Italy. He returns home to sell a second house he owns and he meets Marcela when her husband tries to steal his car. Not exactly the best way to meet someone but he's sympathetic to her situation and attracted to her beauty. She and her two kids end up fleeing their home and moving into Benes' house. For the first time Marcela discovers kindness, stability, and economic security.
This could have played out like a Hollywood meet-cute romance or a chick flick soaper but director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsk & yacute; take a refreshingly different tack. There's definitely humor but it's a kind of dark fatalistic humor, a kind of survivor's humor in which circumstances are often bleak but you have to laugh because that's all you can do to cope. This tone seems typical of some of the other Czech and Balkin films I have seen including Hrebejk's excellent film Divided We Fall. There's also romance in Beauty in Trouble but it's complex. Marcela find the older man attractive in his stability and kindness but she can't deny the sexual attraction she still feels for her husband. Hrebejk plays out the contrast in the men by allowing Marcela to have loud, sweaty sex with her husband on camera whereas Marcela's lovemaking with Benes occurs quietly behind closed doors. This also implies the class difference between the two men.
All the characters have complexity, which is nice. There's one character, Risa, the creepy boyfriend of Marcela's mother, who is exceptionally well drawn. A fellow critic compared him to the creepy old neighbor on Family Guy , and that's pretty accurate. He lectures Marcela and her kids about their obligations as guests in her mother's house, and harasses them about being polite but then farts at the table. yet even he proves to have a redeeming moment. It's so refreshing to see characters that are not mere types and that continually surprise you.
But there was one jarring note in the film. Hrebejk makes repeated use of Glen Hansard's music. He's the musician who starred in Once and Beauty in Trouble uses a number of songs from that film. The songs don't fit tonally in the Czech film and it just seems strange to use music that is so distinctly tied to another romantic film that had its own unique quality.
Beauty in Trouble (in Czech with English subtitles and unrated but for mature audiences) is a wonderfully nuanced film with lovely performances.
Companion viewing: Divided We Fall, Up and Down, I Served the King of England