Já, Olga Hepnarová (Tomáš Weinreb & Petr Kazda, 2017)

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domino harvey
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Já, Olga Hepnarová (Tomáš Weinreb & Petr Kazda, 2017)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:27 am

Portrait of a young Czech woman who lashed out at the world in the early 70s by purposely driving a truck through a busy sidewalk, killing eight people. Proof that art house distancing techniques are not inherently suspect, the film develops its rhythms early and John Waters is correct in his year-end assessment (in which this placed second) that the film is frequently hypnotic. Apart from its most obvious virtue, that of the recurrent glossy black and white visuals of Michalina Olszańska's titular character smoking cigarettes and looking upset, the film also gives us an intriguing and perhaps irresponsible portrait of the effects of bullying. Hepnarová insists her actions are a response to the bullying she felt her whole life as an “innocent” and in order to prevent future lashings-out at others, she needed to wake up society at-whole by doing something it couldn’t ignore. This is megalomaniacal bordering on terrorist logic, but it also dovetails nicely into an observation on the self-centered nature of suicide, as Hepnarová’s actions more than anything are an effort to have someone else (here, the state) kill her since she lacks the will (as learned early on when her distant mother picks her up from the hospital after a failed overdose and tells her she’s not strong enough to kill herself so she might as well not try again). I have no idea if Hepnarová’s actions contributed to an increased awareness among her countrymen at the time— I can only contribute that as a high school student at the time of the Columbine Massacre, I know we all started at least realizing the objects of bullying could potentially kill us all in retaliation— but there’s something unsettling about the very nature of the film she appears in. I think there are some moral gray areas present in giving us a sympathetic portrait of a mass murderer, and the existence of the film itself renders her actions as a kind of validation via exposure even if the film is non-judgmental of her behavior. I never would have heard of the real-life figure’s act without this film. Now I’ll never forget it. Is that good or bad? One of the best films of the year.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#2 Post by knives » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:28 pm

Watched this also on John Waters' recommendation and have to co-sign on the quality here. Being only as cheeky as this surprisingly funny film it is easily the best black and white eastern European film I've seen since Ida. The two actually have a surprising amount in common. In particular how they use an austere and sometimes strange style to expand upon the blossoming psychology of their young protagonists. In a lot of ways this is the more visually typical film, but it has a stranger narrative that often feels like a blend between Elephant and The Match Factory Girl as it really gives us the kitchen sink in terms of what Olga's motives and thoughts are while exaggerating them through a stripping down of reality so that everything seems to happen at once through a singular movement. Of course this couldn't succeed without Olszańska who gives a performance worthy of Buster Keaton. She's completely flat with a haircut that only leaves an impression of the Soviets and several suits that play up her androgyny. It would perhaps be easy to say Olszańska gives us just a Kuleshov theory to play sympathies toward, but if so then those are some complicated emotions. With little or no movement she perfectly conveys, as Dom notes, how self centered and megalomaniac this character's view of herself and her place in the world is while also making her a fairly ordinary young women who I couldn't help cheer to wake up and find happiness even though I knew that the ending of this story would never permit that. I definitely hope others on the board search out and talk up this fantastic little film.

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domino harvey
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Re: Já, Olga Hepnarová (Tomáš Weinreb & Petr Kazda, 2017)

#3 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:17 pm

Interesting thoughts as always, though I must confess that I found the film humorless! While I still hate that "Great Double Bills" thread, I recently saw the even better Ingrid Goes West and it's a great (and markedly different in tone and purpose) compliment to this as another look at the effects of psychotic loneliness

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knives
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Re: Já, Olga Hepnarová (Tomáš Weinreb & Petr Kazda, 2017)

#4 Post by knives » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:37 pm

That's the first good mention I've heard of Ingrid which makes me all the more curious. For me the humour comes from the odd juxtapositions the film occasionally makes, though it is also an intensely uncomfortable sort of joking that helps to underline the complicated nature of Hepnarova. The last shot for example seems like a punchline though of course it only comes to make the film a shade darker. The same thing with the violent act of bullying we do see which is so underplayed and quickly done that in the moment her reaction seems comical, but that initial weirdness also works to make how it weighs on her psychologically all the more disturbing. I could continue with the examples, but instead to sort of summarize while I don't think anyone will be laughing many exaggerations and elements of the pacing is from the comedy genre even if they are worked to purely dramatic purposes.

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domino harvey
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Re: Já, Olga Hepnarová (Tomáš Weinreb & Petr Kazda, 2017)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:40 am

John Waters has chosen this as his annual hosted movie at the Maryland Film Festival

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