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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday August 14, 2019 


Middle aged cellist Louka has his life and his cynicism up-ended when a friendly grave-digger (Ondrez Vetchy) proposes that he marry his distant Russian niece (Irena Livanova) who needs Czech papers. No obligations. Just a signature in exchange for enough money to buy a small car and pay the rent. His bride quickly emigrates to Germany to join her lover, leaving behind her six year-old Russian son, Kolya (Andrej Chalimon), in Louka's at first reluctant care. He soon changes his tune.

"Avoiding schmaltz and the overblown sentimentality that would prove its downfall, Kolya is a triumph of nuances for the father (writer and co-star) and son (director) Sveraks: they have given us emotion, not sentimentality, and quite a few good laughs as well. Zdenek Sverak plays the bachelor cellist who is forced to care for a little boy, and he deals with the intimate and tiny details of the lives around them. The film makers bring our attention to the inner world of a small group of people in such an honest and compassionate way that it is impossible not to feel for them, even the grave digger trying to do a strictly business marriage deal for a relative. The hardship of everyday life in 1988 Prague provides a taut socio-political setting for the gentle yet down to earth nature of the film, in which nothing is glamorised, yet cynicism is absent. This is very good cinema. It is filled with superb performances, none better than the tiny boy played by Andrej Chalomin, marvellous music (lot of welcome Dvorak, of course), and carried throughout by an economical yet fully realised script, with its bitter sweet tone, its playful observations of humanity and the absence of manipulative devices.
Andrew L. Urban

"There is a lot of talent put to good use that makes this a compelling and moving film. In short - a great script with attention to detail, sensitive direction and magnificent performances. Thereís also a wonderful musical score which features the haunting music of Dvorak. In this lovingly crafted work of art, thereís the big picture and thereís the small picture. The big pictures is the political backdrop on which the story is told; the small picture is the combination of the myriads of elements which make up real, everyday life. And itís whatís done with the small picture that will warm your heart. Itís the small details that make this such a special film. We feel as though we have been privy to a glimpse into Loukaís world. There is a certain reality about the potato dumplings that Loukaís old mother makes; we can relate to the terror that a child might feel when dwarfed by strangers and lost on a train, or when faced by moving escalators for the first timeÖ.. At the end of the film when the airport door closes on Louka, and he suddenly sees his reflection, we get the feeling that he is seeing himself for the first time. The performances are simply outstanding - Zdenek Sverak is compelling, and his persona has been indelibly etched in my mindís eye; there is a certain magic in the simplicity of performance by Andrej Chalimon, the little boy with the soulful look and face of an angel. An extraordinary film about ordinary people. Very highly recommended."
Louise Keller

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CAST: Zdenek Sverak, Andrej Chalimon, Libuse Safrankova, Ondrez Vetchy, Stella Zazvorkova, Irena Livanova, Lilian Mankina

DIRECTOR: Jan Sverak

SCRIPT: Zdenek Sverak, based on a story by Pavel Taussig

PRODUCERS: Eric Abraham, Jan Sverak


EDITOR: Alois Fisarek


MUSIC: Ondrej Soukup

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes






Best Foreign Language Film, 1997 Golden Globe Awards;

Best Film & Best Screenplay, 1996 Tokyo Film Festival

Special Mention, 1996 Venice Film Festival

Best Foreign Language Film 1997 Academy Awards

See our Feature on Kolya

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