Saturday, March 20, 2010


Andrei Chalimon, Zdenek Sverak

"The perfect grouch has met his match.
A five year old boy named Kolja."

Velvet Channel

Once in a while, you come across a gem of a movie on TV. Well that is, if like me, you make a conscious effort to check the film listings on the movie channels, daily. So I marked this foreign language film on my calendar given that I'm a big fan of movies with English subtitles. In fact, "Kolja" won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film category in 1997. And rightfully so!

This Czech Republic movie narrates the story of Franta Louka, a concert cellist in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia. He is a confirmed bachelor and lady's man. Formerly a member of the Philharmonic orchestra, he now makes ends meet by playing at funerals and painting tombstones. His friend Mr. Broz, a gravedigger suggests a scheme for making a lot of money. It involves marrying a Russian woman so that she can get her Czech papers so after much pondering, Louka reluctantly agrees. After she secures her papers, she bails out on him by emigrating to West Germany. In the process she leaves Kolja, her five-year-old son with his grandmother. Yet when the grandmother dies, Kolja must come and live with his stepfather - Louka.

This simple film works in more ways than one. It is endearing to watch the emotional interaction between Kolja and Louka. To witness how their relationship develops from awkwardness to a strong bond between a parent and a child. Even though they can't communicate properly given that the little boy only speaks Russian while the musician's mother tongue is the Czech language.

The actor who portrays Kolja is so adorable and is quite adept in showing his emotions through his facial expressions. It is equally interesting to watch how a confirmed bachelor suddenly adapts to having a child in his care. Set amidst a background of political intrigue, the film shows how the Czech citizens deal with and react to the Soviet invasion of its country. The setting is in a little apartment in Prague as well as the luscious Czech countryside.

A poignant film that proves that sometimes all it takes is a scenic backdrop, some talented actors to essay an interesting plot by keeping it simple yet it has a profound effect on society and on life in general.

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