“kolja”

26 Jan

If you can find the movie Kolja, (pronounced Kolya), I would truly recommend watching it. It’s incredibly witty, yet dramatic. It’s a 1996 Czech film (with subtitles) that won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

František Louka is a grumpy, middle-aged bachelor and a struggling concert cellist who has found himself unemployed during the end of the Communist rule. To make a little extra money, his friend sets up a bogus marriage with a Russian woman (and her five-year-old son, Kolja). A series of events subsequently occur – as the woman flees to be with her boyfriend and the woman’s mother passes away, leaving Louka as the sole guardian of the little boy. Louka cannot speak Russian and Kolja cannot speak Czech, but this creates the powerful dynamic between them. Over time Louka’s personality softens, Kolja warms to his newfound “daddy”, and despite their minor understanding of each other, learn to communicate and form a wonderful bond. Their journey is sweet and emotional, and accurately illustrates the political turbulence of the era. The two are separated in the end, as the mother returns for Kolja; however, Louka’s mistress becomes pregnant with his child, and highlights the beginning of their new life.

It’s a gentle reminder of the power of communication, and our need for human affection – things I feel are often taken for granted.

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4 Responses to ““kolja””

  1. Jo. Chen January 27, 2008 at '16:19' #

    Sounds beautiful. I think in this techno-heavy age it is so important to remember the things that make us human. I was surfing my fave Hello Kitty online store a few days ago and found it sold an actual Hello Kitty robot that is programmed to recognize faces, make conversation in different situations(rather than just say a few phrases), and actually calls you by name. I thought it was cute, until I read the sales copy and the accompanying comments by parents who bought it. Let’s just say, I think some people out there need a reality check when it comes to human affection. Check it out at http://www.dreamkitty.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=K-EM070605&Category_Code=HKDL. I still love the store, and Hello Kitty, but you won’t see me getting a robot anytime soon.

  2. sakura January 28, 2008 at '1:57' #

    I actually watched the film and remember more Luka’s transition, from being dead-set against having kids to wishing for nothing but.
    It’s been a long time since I watched it, but I remember the subtle political insinuations thrown into the film that were not necessary (i.e. Russian unwelcome presence among the Czech gros population).
    It’s a cute film, at its best (I’m sorry, you know I’m overly critical hehe). Look up “Ladro di bambini” (translated as Children Thief), by Gianni Amelio. I think it highlights the theme of communication among youth and the adults much better. It’s one of my favourites ; )

  3. staffeen January 28, 2008 at '4:39' #

    Oh you’re absolutely right, the film is definitely about Louka’s transformation. But the “Russian invasion” was also a powerful metaphor, representing Kolja/Russian, in the Louka/Czech domain. Like a social commentary on whether they could live peacefully together, what a statement for 1996.

    I’ll find your suggestion, thank you! 🙂

  4. Radka February 2, 2008 at '3:05' #

    I am from Czechoslovakia, I lived and studied in Prague and when I watched the movie, I felt a lot of nostalgia, of course. The film certainly is about changes along the path of life and about unexpected paradoxes one’s life can bring. It carries that universal message, however, it is set in a very specific environment. Linguistic nuances are difficult to explain, I am lucky, I happen to speak Czech, English and have a solid command of Russian too. I know the history of that part of the world and it is very complex. Czechs do not particularly like Russians as a nation, Russians hurt them, it is almost as a hurt lover. The Russian wife “invades” and then runs away, leaving a live memorabilia behind. Little Kolja represents pure boy, not yet corrupted by social system, and in fact being a victim. Louka identifies with the “victim” status as much as he is also a caring man with enough humanity in him to protect the innocent child and know and change himself. Louka also represents an intellectual, an artist, the social stratum suffering from the oppession of the time the most. His bachelor, non-chalant lifestyle is a protest against cliche, against the system which lacks humanity as much as is “properly” organized. He realizes though that he is the one left to show affection, love, care, and kindness.

    I would not like to end up with the history lecture 🙂 I only thought that I would point out details which may not be obvious but were the message of the son-father duo of creators. The director of the film Jan Sverak is the son of the lead character Zdenek Sverak. Both have an excellent reputation in the world of the Czech film. And I am very happy to hear that it reached such a young audience in Canada 🙂

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