It's Gonna Get Worse

It's Gonna Get Worse

****

Reviewed by: Chris

I remember trying to get into Czechoslovakia around the time of the Velvet Revolution. I was stuck in Berlin waiting for my visa to visit Poland and with nothing else to do. Paul Simon was due to play a 'freedom concert' there. I reckoned I could get in. But freedom wasn't happening that fast and at midnight I was hauled off a train and thrown into a cell. Police were confiscating tidbits like cameras and stereos - perks of their job.

I didn't know much about Czechoslovakia. This film is set in the period about 15 years before my arrival. Dissident movements in a Police State. Mass arrests. Repression and persecution.

Copy picture

Anti-hero Olin is played by unknown Karel Zídek. He likes sex and drugs. And rock and roll. He looks as if he doesn't wash throughout the film.

"It had to be authentic and crude," says director Petr Nikolaev. "I hope we managed this by casting Karel Zídek in the main role of Olin. From the very beginning, I knew that such open-minded people sometimes have problems with reliability, but they had enthusiasm, and none of them betrayed the project."

Nikolaev's unkempt, hippy, druggy drop-outs certainly succeed in looking impressively authentic. But the charismatic story on monochrome stock succeeds by dint of solid performances all round. At times the documentary style (it was shot on 16mm and transferred to 35mm) makes us feel that we are opening a secret page of history. And these ruffians have hearts. They are not sugar-coated or manufactured, but with capacities that put us to shame. It makes us shed a tear at how easily we take freedom for granted.

The freedoms Olin and his friends can enjoy in their communist backwater are few and hard won. Does their risk of police censure for just organising a football match somehow make us more tolerant of the debauchery and drunkenness thrown in for good measure? Not that the authorities need much excuse to squeeze them into even dirtier cesspits. Olin's attitude to free love makes Seventies Californian hippies look pastorally pristine.

Avoid national service by scarring your arms with razor blades. Do your time in the loony bin if your mates can't rescue you. Get what you can - but show some respect for other unfortunates in the same gutter.

A British war veteran stuck in Czechoslovakia never receives his decoration. Now a revolting derelict, he nevertheless earns the friendship and loyalty of Olin's band of friends. His plight elicits sadness: we want to reach out to him. With a slightly uncomfortable feeling I realise I love (or want to love) these unlovable characters. And the price for any of them to cross to the West will be far greater than we can imagine.

It's Gonna Get Worse was first distributed in the Czech Republic as just three copies, rotated to clubs, pubs and East European music festivals. With audiences drinking and chatting at the same time as characters on screen, they related faster and the experience was more intense. Its producer told me "It's shown on 16mm with mono sound (exactly the way it was shot) - with a break in the middle (it's 2 reels on 16mm) so everyone can order another beer or hit the toilet. This, in many ways, perfectly matches the aesthetic of the source material, a novel (of the same name) which was banned when it was written and so became what was knows as a 'samizdat', which basically means that copies of the manuscript were reproduced and handed about from friend to friend. It's not so much an underground film as a 'conspirators' film."

Now, like the original novel, the film has gathered such a cult status that regular cinema screens thankfully loom large. Wipe your mucky paws on your jeans and feast your face on this debauched, late-night, scumbag of a brilliant movie. If you survive, you might even feel cleansed and uplifted by the experience.

I never did get into Czechoslovakia. After a while in the cells, they packed me on the next train back to Berlin. Only now do I know what I missed.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2007
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It's Gonna Get Worse packshot
A cult film about young men living in Czechoslovakia 15 years before the velvet revolution.

Director: Petr Nikolaev

Writer: Petr Nikolaev, based on the novel by Jan Pelc

Starring: Karel Zídek, Filip Kankovský, Vladimír Skultéty, Tereza Hofová, Radomil Uhlir, David Strnad, Michal Gulyás, Michal Soucek, Perla Kotmelová, Eva Cerná, Pavel Zajicek

Year: 2007

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Czech Republic

Festivals:

EIFF 2007

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