Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Like Never Before (orig. Jako Nikdy) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R)  IndieFilm.cz (3 1/2 Stars)  Novinky.cz (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing*
FDB.cz listing*

Lidovky.cz (M. Kabát) review*
IndieFilm.cz (J. Jiřiště) review*
Novinky.cz (S. Dvořák) review*

Czech that Film [official site] [2014 line-up at GSFC in Chicago]

Like Never Before (orig. Jako Nikdy) [2013] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* (directed by Zdeněk Tyc [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*, screenplay by Markéta Bidlasová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) is a two Czech Lion (the Czech equivalent of the Oscars) winning and six Czech Lion nominated film that played recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago as part of 2014 Czech That Film Tour cosponsored by the Czech Diplomatic Mission to the United States.

The title of the film itself is interesting and open to several manners of interpretation / translation from Czech into English.   "Jako Nikdy" literally translates to "As If" "Never."  Since due to Slavic use of declensions, Czech word order is more flexible than English word order, the title could be translated as as something of a condemnation "Like Never Before" of the current (moral) state of things, or if understood as simply the beginning of a sentence "Jako Nikdy... " could be understood as "As if [he] never..." giving a possible understanding of the title as "Jako Nikdy [Neexistoval]" / "As if [he] Never [Existed]" (suggesting a theme of "Oblivion").    

I do believe that both interpretations of the title are interesting/valid because the film tells the story of the dying days of a (invented for the sake of the story) Czech painter named Vladimír (played by Jiří Schmitzer [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) an atheist, and in past better days, a hedonist.  And he was NOT dying a tranquil, "happy death."

Why?  Well, his personal life was a complete mess.  Caring for him were two women:

The first is Karla (played by Petra Špalková [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) also an artist, about 25 years his junior has lived with him for the last 20 or so years, but who's now realizing that (1) Vladimír's old and dying while she's still in her early 40s tops (with a LOT of Life left in her), and (2) since VLADIMIR NEVER MARRIED HER and had NO INTENTION of doing so now when he does she stands to inherit NOTHING of his (arguably THEIRS) and it's quite possible that after he's gone, she could end up on the street. 

The second woman, Jaruna (played by Taťjana Medvecká [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) in her late 50s/60s and though MARRIED to someone else, is more "age appropriate" for Vladimír.  Her claim to Vladimír's attentions now was simply that earlier on in life they had a very, very brief fling together while they were both teaching at the same secondary school, BUT NOW that Vladimir was dying and Karla was so self-evidently UNINTERESTED in taking care of him, she, AGAIN DESPITE BEING MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE, now hovers around Vladimír to take care of him in his dying days, perhaps because ONCE MORE, DESPITE BEING MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE, good ole Vladimir _had been_ the most exciting thing that had happened in her life.

For her part, Karla is AS HAPPY AS PIE when Jaruna comes around, because she can ditch the house and go "drinking" / "play darts" and "whatever..." with GUYS her own age (again married or not) by the local pub.

What does Vladimir think of all this?  HE DOESN'T CARE.  He's on morphine most of the time and when not in pain from the terminal cancer spreading all through his otherwise shrinking body, he's ANGRY.  Why?  BECAUSE HE'S DYING.  In one scene, he's shown tearing up the pictures that he's painted before.  Why?  BECAUSE HE'S DYING.  On one hand, he doesn't believe them good enough for his ideal.  On the other hand, HE DOESN'T WANT THEM TO BE SHARED (PROFITED WITH) AFTER HE'S GONE.   If HE can't go with them, then he doesn't want ANYONE to have them.

And so it is...

Does he have ANY FAMILY / RELATIVES?  Well, there's a son Tomáš (played by Marek Němec [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) ... who hates him.  Why?  Well, Vladimir dumped Tomáš' mother and him when Tomáš was a boy (long before Vladimir eventually shacked-up with Karla... Indeed, Tomáš' and Karla appear to be close to the same age...).  Tomáš had been out of Vladimir's life (by mutual consent) FOR DECADES.  Vlad had no particular interest in his offspring, PARTICULARLY if he felt them "untalented" ... and Tomáš apparently couldn't hold a paint-brush particularly well (when? when he was SIX???)  And Tomáš had long dismissed his father as an a-hole.

But Tomáš becomes necessary to Karla / Jaruna (and above all his dad) at one point because though Karla had lived with Vladimir for 20 odd years, SINCE SHE WAS NOT MARRIED TO HIM, she had no status.  One time when Jaruna was at Vladimir's home changing his diapers (while Karla was out drinking beers and playing darts "with the guys" ...) Vladimir got so sick that she had to call the ambulance.  "But Vladimir wants to die AT HOME," the still sobering-up Karla yells at Jaruna when she eventually staggers home after a night of partying.  But Karla, let alone Jaruna, HAD NO STATUS, to petition the hospital to allow Vladimir to go home (against the wishes of the doctor).  So they HAD TO FIND Tomáš to ask him to help them bring Vladimir home ...

Tomáš would just assume let him rot his last few days "v ustavu" (in an institution...) BUT he has a girl-friend who'd actually like to meet the father of her fiance' ... so ...

Wonderful, Vladimir comes home, and proceeds to be as "pleasant" to Tomáš fiancee' Šárka (played by Jana Pidrmanová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) as he's been to everybody else around him, making Tomáš fiancee' leave before he even has a chance to tell her "See ... I told you so."

So there's Vladimir, dying of cancer with his 25 years his junior lover Karla of 20 years who realizes that as soon as he dies she's screwed.  There's Jaruna who's hovering around for no particularly clear reason except that Vlad was probably (once) the best ever-so-brief fling that she ever had, and Tomáš his son, who hates his dad, but realizes that "Wait, actually when my dad croaks, this house and its contents could actually come to me."  Besides he comes look at the soon to be financially desperate Karla as perhaps even being "part of the package."


INTO THIS MESS, Jaruna actually comes to ask Vlad, if perhaps he'd like TO HAVE A PRIEST COME TO TALK TO HIM.  Why would she be asking that?  Well, she may have a horribly morally problematic "back-story" as well, but she's sincerely trying to be helpful and "nice" to the "best lover she ever had."  Vlad's not interested.  "Oh I know, the local priest here's an idiot, but there's a priest in a neighboring town that I've seen, besides he also has a PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE and HE helped me.  Maybe he can help you too."  Well, at least Vlad's not openly hostile now (perhaps the morphine's kicked in again ...).  So she calls the priest.

The priest (played by Štefan Capko [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) does come.  Here honestly the film does an excellent (if in its own way depressing job).  How does the au courrant priest-with-his-psychology-degree arrive?  ON BIKE as a cyclist in a nice BLACK spandex cyclist suit with a nice white stripe going down the middle of it.  He's a bit overweight, so looks a bit ridiculous.  But it's an interesting way of trying to "wear clerics" even if one's not (or perhaps even "trying to wear clerics" "in a different age" (So it may be sincere on his part, but it still looks odd). 

So he arrives to talk to Vlad (in Czech it'd actually be Vlád'a).  Vlad, of course, has no interest in talking to him.  So the priest soon leaves.  On his way out, Jaruna meets him at the door.  She apologizes for Vlad's wasting the priest's time.  The priest responds.  "No it's never a waste of time."  "But he wouldn't talk to you, so it didn't do him any good." "Yes, but it may have done you some good."  (And in any case, the priest got himself a little "workout" having cycled-in and now back home to/from a neighboring town ...).

Eventually, of course, Vlad dies.  He didn't want a funeral and no one, 'cept possibly Yaruna would have attended anyway.  So they call the hearse.  The undertakers arrive to take the body away.  Presumably he'd be cremated, and his ashes, if no one picked them up, eventually dumped ... somewhere by somebody, presumably the State.

The last scene has Tomáš hitting-on Karla as they walk by a nearby pond.  It's "as if [Vlad] never [existed] ..."

What then to make of a film like this?  Well, the Czech Republic, which by various accounts has the highest percentage of professed atheists in Europe, knows a bit about the depressing nature of atheism as a lived reality.  I've long found it fascinating that THE ARTISTIC COMMUNITY in the Czech Republic has REPEATEDLY taken-on the role of the "moral voice" in the Czech nation. 

As depressing as this film was, IT WAS INTENTIONALLY SO.  The obvious point of this movie was to ask viewers: DO YOU REALLY WANT LIFE (YOUR LIFE) TO BE LIKE THIS?

This is a society that MAY NOT BELIEVE, BUT WOULD HONESTLY WANT TO.  There are historic reasons for the Czechs' atheism and even more specific problems with the Catholic Church. The more ancient historical crime was the Church's burning of the turn-of-the 15th century (!) Czech theologian John Hus [en.wikip] [cz.wikip]* as a heretic, a betrayal from which the Czech nation has never really recovered (in part because the Catholic Church, in a doctrinal box regarding infallibility, has never been able to truly apologize). 

More recent problems have involved passionate arguments over restoration of Catholic Church property that was confiscated (STOLEN) from the Church by the Communists during the Communist era.  YES, _that_ was also a crime.  But the Communists were also smart.  They converted a lot of stolen Convents into various nursing homes and so forth.  As a result, the Church arguing for the return (at least of the deeds) to such properties comes across as "wanting to take away the security of old (often also FORMER COMMUNIST) folks."   YES IT WAS A CRIME TO STEAL THESE PROPERTIES FROM THE CHURCH, but's ALSO a PUBLIC RELATIONS "NO WIN" SITUATION and IT DISTRACTS from proclaiming a Message of Hope to a people that DOES REALIZE THAT WITHOUT _SOME RELIGION_ (GOD / THE GOSPEL) THERE IS NO HOPE.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  (John 6:67-68)

So this film makes for an interesting conversation piece back in the CR and _can offer_ the publics outside the Czech Republic an opportunity to reflect on the abyss that awaits them too when a society has largely lost Hope.

 * Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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  1. Are you *currently* being sent into Hell forever ... automatically excommunicated (outside) of God’s Catholic Church ?

    Answer: Yes you are ... you can reverse it ... please continue.

    Council of Florence, Session 8, 22 Nov 1439 -- infallible Source of Dogma >
    "Whoever wills to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he holds the Catholic faith. Unless a person keeps this faith whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish eternally."

    You must believe the Catholic Dogma to be in the Church ... Dogma you have *never* seen.

    Site > Immaculata-one.com ... infallible Dogma throughout.

    The Catholic Faith *is not* Bible interpretation ... it is the Catholic infallible Sources of Dogma. The Catholic Church didn’t even define the Bible’s New Testament Canon until 397 A.D. at the Council of Carthage.

    - - - -

    Can a group which enforces the opposite, the opposite, and the opposite of the Catholic unchangeable Dogma be the Catholic Church?

    No, it cannot possibly be the Catholic Church ... and promotion of the opposite of the Catholic Dogma is exactly what the vatican-2 heretic cult does ... and has been doing since it’s founding on 8 December 1965 at the Vatican.

    The vatican-2 heresy does not have the Office of the Papacy ... only the Catholic Church has the Papacy.

    The Dogma cannot “change” or be “reversed” ... God does not “change”.

    The founding documents of the vatican-2 heretic cult … the “vatican-2 council” documents … have well over 200 heresies *against* prior defined unchangeable Dogma. Every (apparent) bishop at the “council” approved the mountain of heresy, which caused their automatic excommunication, see Section 13.2 of the below site.

    - - - -

    Section 12 > Anti-Christ vatican-2 heresies (50 listed) ... followed by many Catholic corrections.

    Sections 13 and 13.1 > Photographic *proof* of heresy at the Vatican.

    Because of … the Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy or for physical participation in a heretic cult (such as the v-2 cult) …

    … we were all placed, body and soul, *outside* of Christianity (the Catholic Church) on 8 December 1965 … the close date of the “council”.

    Section 13.2 > Catholic Dogma on automatic excommunication for heresy or participating in a heretic cult such as ... vatican-2, lutheran, methodist, evangelical, etc.

    Section 107 > St. Athanasius (died 373 A.D.) ... “Even if the Church were reduced to a handful ...” - - during the “arian” heresy ... we are there again, but worse.

    Section 13.3 > Matt 16:18, Gates of Hell scripture ... is *not* about the Office of the Papacy ... four Dogmatic Councils defined it ... that heresy will not cause the Dogma to disappear.

    Section 13.4 > The vatican-2 heretic cult does not have the Office of the Papacy only the Catholic Church has the Papacy.

    Section 13.6 > The Catholic Dogma on Jurisdiction and Automatic Excommunication for heresy define that ... God has allowed Catholic Jurisdiction ... for Mass and Confession to disappear from the world. There is no such thing as Catholic Mass outside of the Catholic Church.

    Non-Catholic heresies such as “vatican-2”, “sspx”, “sspv”, “cmri”, etc. ... do not have Catholic Mass.

    Section 19.1 > Dogma on Abjuration for *re-entering* Christianity (the Catholic Church) … after being automatically excommunicated. A Formal Abjuration is provided here also.

    Section 10.2 > Returning to a state of grace, in places and times when Confession is not available, like now.

    - - - -

    Second Council of Constantinople, 553 A.D. -- infallible Source of Dogma >
    "The heretic, even though he has not been condemned formally by any individual, in reality brings anathema on himself, having cut himself off from the way of truth by his heresy."

    Blessed John Eudes, died 1680 >
    “The greatest evil existing today is heresy, an infernal rage which hurls countless souls into eternal damnation.”

    Everything you must know, believe, and do to get to Heaven is on > > Immaculata-one.com.

    Our Lady of Conquest
    Pray for us

    1. Hi Victoria, I actually reflected a bit on whether or not to post your comment, and decided that it'd probably easier to post it.

      However, I wonder if you realize that by apparently refusing to recognize the Second Vatican Council that you yourself have placed yourself outside of the Catholic Church ;-). The Second Vatican Council was called and presided over by two legitimately elected Popes and its documents were approved by them in Communion with whole world's Catholic Bishops attending.

      You may not like what the Council decided but the Council did decide that it preferred a Church that was "not here on earth to be a curator of a museum but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life." -- St. Pope John XXIII.

      With regards to "infallibility" ... the term only makes sense in a context of a group that already believes in the authority of the entity claiming to be so. Hence it is a term for an echo-chamber. To those outside of the group, it's meaningless and perhaps even terrorizing.

      In contrast, in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Second Vatican Council admitted the obvious "The truth only convinces by the virtue of its truth."

      One can dress a doctrine in all kinds of solemn sounding (and then if that doesn't work, perhaps threatening) words, but if it DOESN'T "ring true" then no matter how much "garnish" is placed around it (or muscle is put on it), it won't really convince anyone anyway.

      The lackeys will "believe," the terrorized WILL PRETEND TO BELIEVE but it will remain a fool's exercise. One day, SOMEONE will kick down the throne...

      I prefer a far more humble and therefore far more stable (and far more BELIEVABLE) Church than that.

      And both the Second Vatican Council AND THE CURRENT POPE are certainly taking us in that more humble / CREDIBLE / BELIEVABLE direction and thanks be to God for that.