Saturday, April 5, 2014

Honeymoon (orig. Líbánky) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R)  iDnes (3 of 5 Stars)  Fr. Dennis-Zdenek (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing* listing*

HollywoodReporter (B. van Hoeij) review (M. M. Spáčilová) review* (J. Gregor) review*

Honeymoon (orig. Líbánky) [2013] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* (directed by Jan Hřebejk [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*, screenplay by Petr Jarchovský [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) is an award-winning/critically acclaimed Czech film that closed the 17th Annual European Union Film Festival held recently here at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

The film takes place in the context of a lovely wedding and reception of a quite well-to-do mid-thirty-something couple, Radim (played by Stanislav Majer [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) and Teresa (played by Aňa Geislerová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*).  Since they're both in their thirties, we can expect that both would have their stories.  We learn early that Radim has a thirteen year-old son (played by Matěj Zikán [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) from a previous relationship.  We find out also that Teresa had been married before as well.  And as the lovely Church wedding ends -- viewers get to hear the famous passage from 1 Corinthians about love "Love is patient, love is kind, ... love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things ... love never fails.  In the end these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love and the greatest of these is Love." (1 Cor 13:1-13) proclaimed in Czech (w. English subtitles) -- we see that Teresa is sporting a small baby bump... so the couple already has had its share of "stories" big and small.

However, none of this compares to what follows at the reception: An odd late-twenties, early-thirty-something man, who eventually introduces himself as "Benda" (played by Jiří Černý [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) who the wedding party had already encountered hovering about the church at the time of the wedding, shows-up at the wedding reception and inserts, asserts himself quite confidently as if he naturally belongs there.  Who is he?  Well, when the bride tired of his presence (and seeing that no one was doing anything to get rid of him) asks him "Who are you?" he answers "Ask the groom."

Okay, the banal scenario of today would be that Benda would have had some sort of a (necessarily gay) relationship with Radim.  But that's not (really) the case here.  The story is far, far more complicated than that.  And by the end of the story, it makes sense that Aleš ("Benda's" real name) was there.

I'm not going to say more about this film because I do believe that this film is good enough to be picked up and shown in the "art house" circuit here in the U.S.  In her introductory remarks, the Czech Counsel General present at the screening of this film -- again the film closed the 17th Annual European Union Film Festival here in Chicago -- compared the works of the director Jan Hřebejk [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* to Woody Allen both in terms of content and in terms of productivity (both produce thought provoking films on a year-in, year-out basis).  I think the comparison is very good.  No this is NOT a "funny film" BUT it is A LOT like Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors [1989] and especially Match Point [2005].   And I would also compare it to the excellent African-American film Repentance [2014] presently in the cinemas as well, as both films are about the need to come to terms with things, painful things that happened in the past.

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.  

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